GARDEN GROVE: Julie Tran holds her phone during a candlelight vigil in Garden Grove, California, on Wednesday to unite against the recent spate of violence targeting Asians and to express grief and outrage after a shooting that left eight people dead in Atlanta, Georgia, including at least six Asian women. - AFP

LOS ANGELES: Basketball stars LeBron James and Jeremy Lin were among those Wednesday condemning acts of hatred directed at the Asian community after a series of shootings in the Atlanta area left six Asian women dead. Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, took responsibility for killing eight people on Tuesday in spas in the southern state of Georgia, including the women. Authorities stressed the motive of the shooter had not been determined, yet the incident shook the Asian-American community, whose members have faced a surge in violence targeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

James, a four-time NBA champion and star guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, tweeted, "My condolences goes out to the families of all the victims and the entire Asian community tonight on what transpired in Atlanta at the Aromatherapy Spa... Just senseless and tragic!!"

"Last night's tragic events in Atlanta are part of a disturbing rise in violence and discrimination towards Asian Americans," the NBA said in a statement. "Today and every day, we stand with the Asian community and condemn all acts of hate and racism."

Lin, the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, was upset about the shooting, tweeting his pain and hope. "This is sooo heartbreaking... praying for our world," Lin tweeted. "To my Asian American family, please take time to grieve but know youre loved, seen and IMPORTANT. We have to keep standing up, speaking out, rallying together and fighting for change. We cannot lose hope!!"

'Idiotic & devastating'

Lin became a surprise star off the bench for the New York Knicks in 2012 and won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He spent last season with the Beijing Ducks and played earlier this year for a developmental team of the Golden State Warriors.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young tweeted he was "SICK about what happened here in ATL yesterday, my Condolences go out to the family's & loved ones who were affected by this tragedy Nothing else needs to be said... I'm with you! STOP ASIAN HATE!!!!!!" The Lakers said in a statement that "Anti-Asian racism and violence is deplorable and we do not stand for it," adding, "We stand in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We see you."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose father was killed by gunmen in Lebanon in 1984, sent a series of tweets condemning all hate-based violence. "My heart goes out to the victims and surviving family members of the shootings in Atlanta," he said. "Once again our country faces the trauma of hate inspired mass murders. It is on all of us to speak up & snuff out hate based violence.

The current climate of animosity toward Asian Americans is idiotic and devastating. We must value all human life and denounce anyone who displays racial/ethnic hatred in any form. We have to be better than this. Ignorant remarks connecting Asian Americans to COVID-19 are leading to widespread racism, which turns into violence and even murder in our communities. We all have to do our part to stop this from happening again." - AFP