LeBron James Donates $2.5 Million to New Smithsonian African American History Museum

The gift supports a presentation on Muhammad Ali.

LeBron James, #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller, courtesy Getty Images.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has announced that LeBron James has pledged a $2.5 million donation to the newly-opened institution, in support of its display on heavyweight boxing champion and activist Muhammad Ali.

The presentation, titled “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change,” showcases Ali’s achievements in sports and exhibits ephemera like his training robe and headgear, but also focuses on his humanitarian work and social activism. Ali used his high profile to critique racism in America, protest the Vietnam War, and raise awareness of Islam, the religion to which he had converted.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography.

“We are extremely grateful to LeBron James for his support of the museum,” said Damion Thomas, curator of the Sports Gallery at the NMAAHC, in a statement. “As the most socially active superstar in sports today, LeBron James is a testament to the influence of Muhammad Ali. Ali embodied the racial and social tumult of his times, blurring lines between politics and sports, activism and entertainment.”

The gift comes from James and business partner Maverick Carter, making the LeBron James Family Foundation and Carter official founding donors of the NMAAHC. James, a three-time NBA championship winner, four-time MVP, and two-time Olympic gold medal winner (among numerous other NBA awards), isn’t the first star African American basketball player to donate to the institution: this follows a $5 million gift from Michael Jordan in August.

The museum opened in September and has been met with an incredible response from the public. Although admission is free, there’s a mad rush for a prized timed pass to enter, and passes are already sold out until March 2017.


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