When asked about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in which 17 people were killed, former Miami Heat star LeBron James had one question:
“How is it possible that we can have minors go buy a gun?”
Nikolas Cruz, accused of the killings, is actually 19 and legally bought the AR-15 semiautomatic weapon that was used during the Feb. 14 incident. Still, James, the Cavaliers' superstar, and other players with ties to South Florida could not make sense of the tragedy.
The players were asked about the shooting during Saturday’s media day for the NBA All-Star Weekend.
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea
“We have a kid who wasn’t legally unable (sic) to buy a beer at a bar, but he can go buy an AR-15?” James said “It doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying it should be legal for him to go buy beer. But how is it possible that we can have minors go buy a gun?”
Heat guard Wayne Ellington, who was fourth in Saturday's 3-point contest, said the nation has to "come together" to makes changes so these mass shootings do not continue to occur. The shooting was the ninth deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, five of those coming in the last six years.
“I was at a loss for words,” Ellington said. “I couldn’t understand what’s going on, why (this) is going on in the world. Do we need to change? These young people doing unexplainable things, hurting each other and hurting innocent people it’s so unfortunate and sad, it’s something I don’t know how we can change but it’s something we need to come together and figure out.”
John Collins, the Atlanta Hawks rookie from Palm Beach County, was calling home to try to understand what was happening.
“It was a real shock to me,” said Collins, who played in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge. “Obviously, I never expected something like that to happen. I know a couple of people that were affected by that tragedy. You got to say your prayers and sending your condolences and thoughts to the victims.”
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James, though, was the most outspoken in calling for gun control.
“We’ve seen these schools and these tragedies happen in America and there’s been no change to gun control,” James said. “I don’t have the answer to this. But we have to do something about it. We’re all sending our kids to school, right? We drop them off at 8 o’clock. At 3:15 they’re going to be ready to get picked up. Either we’re picking them or someone in our family is picking them up or they have to take a bus or there’s aftercare and they stay until 5. If they have study hall they stay until 5:30 or whatever. But we all feel like our kids are going to return, right?
“To the families in Parkland, down in Broward County, it’s sad and I’m sorry and it’s just a tragedy and I hope we don’t continue to see this because it’s too many in the last 10 years with guns.”
James, meanwhile, has been embroiled in a social media debate with Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, who said that athletes like James should "keep the political commentary to yourself.”
“Or as someone once said, 'Shut up and dribble,’” Ingraham said.
Ingraham was referencing an interview that James and Kevin Durant taped in January with ESPN's Cari Champion for a show called "Uninterrupted." The two NBA stars spoke about the political climate in the United States and had harsh criticism for President Donald Trump, ESPN reported.
Durant, in an interview with USA Today on Friday, said Ingraham's comments were "racist."
“That was definitely an ignorant comment (by Ingraham). I do play basketball, but I am a civilian and I am a citizen of the United States, so my voice is just as loud as hers, I think -- or even louder.”
James, on his Instagram account, posted a photo of a neon sign that read “I am more than an athlete.”
Ingraham released a statement Saturday defending her comments, ESPN reported.
"In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called 'Shut Up & Sing,' in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks and Barbra Streisand, who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics,” Ingraham wrote. “If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they're called out for insulting politicians. There was no racial intent in my remarks -- false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism."