On March 4, 2018, Kobe Bryant won an Academy Award for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball,” and said in his acceptance speech “I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to ‘shut up and dribble.’ But I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”
A few weeks ago the National Basketball Association’s two best players, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, sat down with ESPN’s Cari Champion for an interview on James’ media site, Uninterrupted. Uninterrupted launched a few years ago on Bleacher Report, and gives professional athletes a chance to showcase their lives when they’re not competing.
During the interview with Champion, both James and Durant were critical of many political and social issues. The comments that captured most people’s attention, were the remarks James made about President Trump: “The number one job in America [president], and the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f*** about the people,” he said.
Kevin Durant also spoke out against President Trump. “When you’re talking about leadership and what’s going on in our country, it’s all about leadership. And I learned that playing basketball. I learned a lot of life skills from playing basketball. You need to encourage people and that’s what builds a great team, and I feel like our team as a country is not ran by a great coach.”
Athletes everywhere, on all levels, have been very supportive of professional athletes using their platform to express their political views.
Senior mass communication major and member of the Piedmont basketball team, Justin Vallejo said, “I think it’s great that superstar athletes are using the platform they have to reach out to society about the problems and issues that are going on in America.”
The comments made by Durant and James quickly became available on social media and raised a few eyebrows. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, a known conservative and TV show host, was very critical of James’ comments. Ingraham said James’ and Durant’s comments were “barely intelligible,” “ungrammatical” and “ignorant.”
Dr. Welch Suggs, who teaches sports journalism courses at the University of Georgia, thinks that sports have often been viewed as an escape from real world issues. “There have always been plenty of people, including those in the media, who see sports as a respite from politics and other difficult and challenging aspects of daily life,” Suggs said. “When athletes ‘step out of their lane’—unless it’s for an acceptable cause like supporting veterans–fans and media criticize them for taking away that respite.”
“Must they run their mouths like that? It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball. Oh, and LeBron and Kevin, you are great players but no one voted for you,” Ingraham said. “Millions elected Trump to be their coach. So keep the political commentary to yourself or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”
James and Durant are not the only professional athletes or coaches who have been critical of President Trump. The two most well-known and respected coaches in the NBA, Steve Kerr and Greg Popovich, have vehemently opposed Trump publicly ever since he’s stepped into office. Super Bowl Champion and defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles Chris Long has not agreed with anything Trump has done in his presidency and Long has been very vocal about that. For some reason though, Long, Kerr and Popovich haven’t been attacked by the Fox News host for their comments. Durant, James, Long, Kerr and Popovich are openly critical of the president. Of those five men, two are black and three are white, and many people do not think that it’s a coincidence Ingraham went after the two men who do not possess the same skin color as her.
Ingraham most likely made these comments to gain publicity, which she did, but showed her own unawareness of a broken system.
“This was a white woman who didn’t like the opinion of a black man, and she took it out of hand. She said that James and Durant should not give their political opinion, because no one voted for them, but no one voted for Laura Ingraham either,” Junior mass communication major Luke Tanner said. “James and Durant, along with any other American, have a right to speak freely on these types of issues, and shouldn’t be ridiculed by ratings-seeking political commentators like Laura Ingraham.”
James has since responded to Ingraham, saying, “We will definitely not shut up and dribble.”