Italian Tennis Star Matteo Berrettini Uses Ape x Crown Emoji To “Praise” His “Biggest Idol” LeBron James | His Apology Falls Flat; Can You Say Double Fault?

Image Credit: Twitter @Uninterrupted

The repercussions of LeBron James’ appearance at the Drew League have been wide-reaching. From an exposition of DeMar DeRozan’s potentially messy baby mama meets girlfriend situation to James’ getting clowned for choosing Russell Westbrook over DeRozan, old racial tropes have also emanated from his game.

To praise James for his otherworldly Drew League showing, Italian tennis star Matteo Berrettini crossed the line of decency and steered straight into racism.

James set street ball ablaze when he went ham, delivering a 42-point performance in the world-famous Los Angeles-based Drew League. Most athletes showed their admiration for James, who is even more remarkable as an active billionaire that still hoops in community-based leagues.

However, Berrettini’s supposed attempt to praise “The King” went south when he shared a photo of the L.A. Laker on his Instagram story, with a gorilla next to a crown emoji.

Scratches head…

Of course, the internet went nuts, as it seemed virtually impossible that Berrettini wouldn’t be aware of the racial trope that has historically been associated with Blackness.

Immediately, Berrettini was labeled a racist with the subsequent deletion by the tennis star. But it was too late in the court of public opinion that was able to stew over the image, which remained for over eight hours before Berrettini’s removal.

Later, Berrettini issued an apology.

“I am very sorry if my previous story post offended anyone,” Berrettini said. “I was informed that it can easily be misinterpreted so I have deleted it. Lebron is my biggest idol. Incredible role model and inspiration.”

Matteo Berrettini IG Story

Ironically, the fact that Berrettini calls James his idol is curious, since most are careful when trying to make an impression on their “role models.”

James has been the target of racism his whole career, especially as someone who’s been considered at times as the NBA’s version of Colin Kaepernick. He waged a war of words against former President Donald Trump while he was in office and has spearheaded the NBA’s player-first attitude. He created a media platform called “Uninterrupted” after being warned to “shut up and dribble” by conservative media.

More recently, James reflected on his varied experiences playing in Massachusetts, specifically at the TD Garden, aka the Boston Garden. The “King” took to his hit HBO show “The Shop” to keep it accurate on his innermost thoughts on Beantown.

“‘Cause they racist as f**k, that’s why,” James continued. “They will say anything. And it’s fine. I mean f**k, it’s my life, f**k I’ve been dealing with it my whole life. I don’t mind it. I hear it. If I hear somebody close by, I check them real quick, then move on to the game.

“They’re going to say whatever the f**k they want to say. They might throw something on you, I mean I got a beer thrown on me leaving the game. It’s Boston.”

James has encountered everything in Boston, from people in the stands calling him out of his name to a beer poured on him.

To say James understands his polarization is an understatement. Now his so-called biggest fans are even taking liberties with their “love” for “The King”; however, it will not be unchecked.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.