WATCH: NBA legend LeBron James takes aim at Trump over flag dispute

James has accused the Us President of attempting to use sport to divide the people

WATCH: NBA legend LeBron James takes aim at Trump over flag dispute

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers questions during the NBA basketball team media day, 25-09-2017. Image: AP Photo/Ron Schwane

Basketball legend LeBron James has lashed out at US President Donald Trump over the NFL flag dispute.

The US President poured fuel on the issue during a rally in Alabama on Friday night, urging NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who kneels during the country’s national anthem.

Players have been refusing to stand for the anthem to protest police violence against black Americans.

The protest was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

While only four players took part in the protest last weekend, the President’s comments led to widespread anger - and almost 200 players taking a knee on Sunday.

Referring to President Trump as “that guy,” three time NBA championship winner LeBron James welcomed the unity shown by NFL players, couches and owners.

"First of all, I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans. Everyone who had any association with the NFL was unbelievable," James said. "There was no divide. Even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people.”

"The thing that frustrated me; pissed me off; he was using the sports platform to divide us.

“Sports is so amazing; what sports can do for everyone, no matter shape, size, race. It brings people he should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us."

Denver Broncos free safety Bradley Roby, 29, raises his arm as other players kneel during the playing of the national anthem at New Era Field, 24-09-2017. Image: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

President Trump has refused to back down in his views over recent days - tweeting repeated calls for players to "respect the flag."

He has insisted the controversy is not about race - but for many Americans it about little else, with both the sport and the country divided over the president’s stance.

Regardless of President Trump’s motivation for inserting himself into the controversy, James has welcomed the increased focus on the country’s racial divisions.

 

"We know this is the greatest country in the world," James said. "It's the land of the free.”

“But we still have problems just like everybody else and when we have those problems, we have to figure out a way how we come together and be as great as we can be as a people.

“Because the people run this country, not one individual - and damn sure not him."

He said someone in President Trump’s position should hold himself to higher standards.

"He doesn't understand the power that he has for being the leader of this beautiful country," James said.

"He doesn't understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement.

“He doesn't understand that and that's what makes me more sick than anything.”

The Dallas Cowboys - led by owner Jerry Jones, centre - take a knee prior to the national anthem 25-09-2017. Image: AP Photo/Matt York

The NFLs largest franchise, the Dallas Cowboys - loved and loathed by Americans in equal measure - had to wait until Monday for their game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The entire line-up, including owner and Trump supporter Jerry Jones, opted to strike a balance by kneeling before the anthem but standing while it was played.

The decision led to boos from certain sections of the stands and supporters have admitted to being conflicted about both the protest and the President’s response.

Dallas fans Victor Goldman and Albert Rios both served in the US military.

"Why the national anthem and why the flag?" asked Goldman.

"It is not that I oppose what they are doing, I just don't understand it."

Rios added: "I served my country and I love my country.

"I served it for one purpose only: to make sure that every American has the right and the freedom to express whatever they want."

He said that Donald Trump also had that right to freedom of expression.

Additional reporting from IRN ...