'Athletes unite the world, politics divides the world' - Ibrahimovic responds to LeBron James criticism

Zlatan Ibrahimovic LeBron JamesGetty/Goal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has responded to criticism from LeBron James, insisting that "athletes unite the world, politics divides the world".

A war of words between two sporting icons began when Ibrahimovic hit out at the basketball superstar for getting involved in political issues away from the court.

James issued a swift rebuttal, warning the AC Milan striker that he's the "wrong guy to go at", but the 39-year-old has stirred the pot even further during a press conference at the San Remo 2021 festival on Tuesday.

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What was said?

James accused Ibrahimovic of hypocrisy while referencing the Swede's outspoken comments on racism in his homeland in 2018, but he has now come out to insist that the Los Angeles Lakers baller is missing the point of his tirade.

“Racism and politics are two different things. We athletes unite the world, politics divides the world," Ibrahimovic told the media.

“Everyone is welcome, it has nothing to do with where you are from, we do what we do to unite.

"We don’t do other things because we are not good at it, otherwise I would be in politics. 

"That’s my message. Athletes must be athletes, politicians must be politicians.”

What did Ibrahimovic originally say?

Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ last week: "[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he's doing, but I don't like it when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time.

"Do what you're good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best at playing football.

"I don't do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they reach a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn't look good."

LeBron James' comeback

“I will never shut up about things that are wrong," James said to reporters at the weekend. "I preach about my people and I preach about equality. Social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community.

"There is no way I will ever just stick to sports because I know with this platform, how powerful my voice is. 

"It’s funny that he’s (Ibrahimovic) said that because I believe back in 2018 he’s the same guy who said that when he was back in Sweden, he was talking about the same things.

"Because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, he felt like there was some racism going on while he was out on the pitch… right?"

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