A man who has taught his 50 million Twitter followers words like "wether", "boarder" and "unpresidented" apparently thinks LeBron James is a dummy.

In a tweet sent last weekend, Donald Trump said journalist Don Lemon, who was interviewing James while the president was busy hate-watching CNN, made "Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do".

Why did James elicit that missive from a president who's usually such a paragon of restraint? He simply spoke this self-evident truth to CNN: "What I've noticed over the past few months is [Trump] has kinda used sports to divide us."

That attempted division is clear. First, predominantly black athletes point out the injustices faced by people of colour every day in the United States. Then, Trump attacks those athletes for being ungrateful. Finally, his all-white base roars its approval.


But while the debate between James and Trump seems a little unbalanced - in one corner we have perhaps the greatest basketballer of all time, a player who has at times single-handedly dragged his teams to eight straight NBA Finals, and a man who last week opened a public school for 240 at-risk kids; in the other we have a sack of old peaches that has been left in the sun for too long - on this occasion I'm gonna have to take issue with LeBron.

Long before Trump's fat thumbs first turned on the caps lock, sport was always a cause of division, in ways both good and bad. It's part of what makes it so captivating. Trump is merely causing another fissure, in a week that has featured plenty.

Some of the division is good-natured and ultimately meaningless. For example, Beauden Barrett is going to start in the No 10 jersey for the first Bledisloe Cup test against Australia next weekend, despite the clamouring of Crusaders fans pressing the deserving case of Richie Mo'unga, while the All Blacks are going to beat Australia, despite the quality banter from Steve Hansen about his opponents being favourites.

Some division has a fair bit of enmity attached. Look no further than the Premier League kicking off this weekend, marking the official end of a magical summer in which England rallied around their surprising World Cup heroes, a feel-good atmosphere that will inevitably be replaced by chants that would make the Green Party proud.

And some, unfortunately, is just plain toxic.

While Trump has successfully vilified African American athletes for kneeling during a stupid song, other, perhaps almost equal travesties are continuing unabated in the sporting world.

This being sport, of course, no matter the offence there are always fans willing not only to forgive but lash out at anyone on the other side of the dividing line.

A quick example: we discussed a couple of weeks ago the racist and homophobic tweets sent by Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader when he was 17. It would be difficult to defend such hurtful words. Except for Brewers fans, who proceeded to celebrate Hader with a standing ovation the next time he took the mound.


And this week, in a similar case involving the dark side of an us-against-them mentality, we have Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer.

One of the true greats in the profession of profiting handsomely from the exploitation of unpaid student-athletes, Meyer has become embroiled in a controversy surrounding his knowledge of domestic abuse allegations involving a former assistant.

The coach was placed on paid administrative leave as Ohio State investigated whether he mishandled or even overlooked the accusations, after a damning investigation from a former ESPN reporter.

So how did Ohio State fans respond to news of their beloved coach's potentially grave mistake? They headed to the stadium, conducted a rally to defend Meyer and lashed out at, sigh, the "fake news" of ESPN.

One attendee even carried a sign, reading, "Me too! I support Urban Meyer". One guess whom that enlightened individual voted for.

Now, this would all be extremely depressing if it weren't so unsurprising. (Scratch that, it's still pretty damn depressing.)

Sports are inherently partisan and fans are instinctively tribal, perhaps now more than ever. Trump can take some credit, or blame, but a player like James who was once as heavily criticised as any athlete knows division has always existed in sport.

Although, we keep it pretty cool in this part of the world. New Zealand fans are occasionally criticised for being less fanatical in their fanaticism. And while that may create quieter atmospheres, it equally begets better people.

Not having a dried-up Jack-O'-Lantern as our leader certainly helps, but so does keeping our divisions limited to topics like which world-class first five deserves to kick off another walloping of the Wallabies.