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The Case for Shutting Up and Dribbling

John Orzechowski, Head Writer

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A little less than two months ago, Lebron James and Kevin Durant got into a Cadillac Escalade with Sportscenter host Cari Champion at the wheel. It’s part of her Uninterrupted series, “Rolling with the Champion” in which she poses as an Uber driver and cruises around a city with an NBA star in the back seat. In the past, it’s been focused on basketball or pop culture, with Lonzo Ball talking about music and Deandre Jordan talking about style. However, this episode took a different turn.

About four minutes into the seventeen minute long video, Lebron and KD’s conversation turned to politics. At first, it was innocent. Lebron talked about how he wanted to better himself. But then things got tricky when Champion egged them on to discuss one of the most controversial topics in the country: Donald Trump. It climaxed when Lebron said that President Trump, “don’t give a f*** about the people” and Durant offered up the comparison that our country as a team “is not [run] by a great coach.” Naturally, this inspired some controversy and criticisms of the two stars, most notably from Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham. On her televised response to the video, she told these incredible athletes to “shut up and dribble.” It inspired outrage with most of the media, but how much of this outrage was deserved?

She starts out her commentary by calling Lebron’s comments “barely intelligible” and says they are “ungrammatical” takes on the president, which set the media off. This, along with the fact she pointed out that James didn’t go to college and told two black athletes to “shut up and dribble” apparently makes her a racist. No, it doesn’t. If someone is going to offer political commentary, regardless of their views, they should sound professional.

President Trump doesn’t always sound the most professional, and that’s a problem when he doesn’t. But if Lebron wants to act like he and this country can be better than their leader, he shouldn’t fall into the same trap that Trump does. Saying that Trump, “don’t give a f*** about the people” when he knows he’s on national TV might make him think he seems powerful, but he just looks uneducated in the eyes of most Americans.

Lebron didn’t go to college, and Kevin played one year at Texas. That isn’t a knock on them as people. Lebron had plenty of offers from top tier D1 colleges; he was just good enough to go to the NBA right out of high school. Kevin Durant had to go to college a year before he could be drafted. These NBA players that leave college early are not bad people, but they didn’t finish college. Lebron is not going to be as educated as an actual political analyst, so when he poses as one he should expect criticism.

Mentioning that someone didn’t go to college doesn’t make one a racist. And finally, telling someone to do their job is not racist either. Ingrahm has gone after other leftist celebrities before, telling Jimmy Kimmel to “shut up and make me laugh” and telling the Dixie Chicks to “shut up and sing.” When First Take on ESPN talked about this issue, host Molly Qerim transitioned to commercial break by saying she thought it would be the same as if Lebron had told Ingrahm to “shut up and get in the kitchen.” No, it wouldn’t. Telling a woman to get into the kitchen is an offensive stereotype. Telling a basketball player to play basketball is just common sense. 

But now, I must offer my opinion on not just Lebron James, but every athlete that is venturing into the realm of politics. To tell these athletes to screw off is unconstitutional. Everyone has the right to protest or say what they want. But there’s a certain idea of common sense that seems to escape almost everyone that expresses their views, normally leftist in thought.

Lebron James is not a basketball player; he’s a brand. He releases a shoe every year with Nike, drives KIAs in commercials, sells Sprite to fans and teams up with Jim Parsons to sell Dell products during the holidays. President Trump might not be very popular, but a large enough percentage of the country likes him that he’s our president. Lebron isolates those who support him and deters their willingness to buy his product. It’s the same with Durant. The biggest names are more than players; they’re money machines. Isolating those across the aisle is a bad business tactic. It’s why so many disgusted NFL fans cancelled their DirectTV subscriptions this season. Politics have become such a polarizing debate that disagreements often lead to, for lack of a better term, rage quits. Those who didn’t agree with those kneeling during the anthem simply boycotted the NFL.

These athletes have a platform to say what they want, but it’s going to shrink under their feet if this keeps up. The simple solution: if people wanted to watch people complaining about our president, they’d watch MSNBC. Please entertain us, and don’t give us reasons to dislike you more than we already do. 

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