Cleveland Cavaliers star Lebron James recently sparked outrage with his anti-Trump rhetoric in a video on UNINTERRUPTED.
“The number one job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f— about the people.” James said. “It’s not even a surprise when he [Trump] says something. It’s like laughable. It’s laughable, and it’s scary.”
In response to James’ comments, Fox News host Laura Ingraham delivered a monologue that sparked outrage of its own. “Must they run their mouths like that?” she asked. “This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA.”
The comment which received the most backlash was Ingraham’s suggestion that James should “shut up and dribble.”
James responded to Ingraham’s comments in a tweet with the hastag #wewillnotshutupanddribble. Ingraham then quoted James’ tweet, saying, “Hey King, Come play on my Court next week. You’re invited on the show anytime.”
After facing many accusations of racism, Ingraham released a defensive statement, writing, “There was no racial intent in my remarks- false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism.” She also pointed out her continuous use of the phrase “shut up and…” towards many different entertainers, like Barbra Streisand and Robert DeNiro.
As ridiculous as this whole situation is, it does require in-depth analysis. First off, James’ comments were ridiculous. The suggestion that public leaders don’t care for anyone is often rooted in a lack of respect for political opposition. Meaningful political discourse focuses on policy, not derogative allegations. However, this does not mean athletes should merely “shut up and dribble.”
Some conservatives, like Ingraham, tend to grow uneasy when liberal athletes express their political opinions. This propensity is a poor look for conservatives, especially considering our unapologetic support for free speech. The First Amendment doesn’t suddenly stop at Lebron James’ and Colin Kaepernick’s doors. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean they have to “shut up and dribble.”
Telling athletes to “stick to sports” is identity politics at its finest. Just as progressives claim pro-life men can’t discuss abortion policies, many conservatives claim liberal athletes can’t discuss politics. As Super Bowl champion Chris Long pointed out in a viral twitter thread, some on the right have a clear hypocrisy over the debate of entertainers and their political credibility. For the sake of our credibility, conservatives must avoid these hypocrisies over athletes and free speech.
It would be a travesty to not only exclude athletes who have insightful political opinions, but also those who want to exercise their ability to speak unencumbered. The past two years the March for Life featured speeches from two NFL players: Benjamin Watson in 2017 and Matt Birk in 2018. Should pro-life athletes shut up?
All athletes have the right to talk politics because all people have the right to talk politics. That’s what makes our country so special. If a famous athlete like James uses his platform to push a pathetic narrative, then so be it. Athletes can use their platform as they choose. Whether you agree or disagree is up to you.
For Ingraham and James, rather than engaging in a petty argument, they should bond over their shared dedication to charity. In the tense political environment of 2018, it is important that we emphasize our similarities and respectfully discuss our differences.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.