If she had a soul, perhaps Laura Ingraham might have felt a special level of shame as LeBron James used his platform to help hundreds of underprivileged children enjoy the benefits of an education system that has failed them.
Ingraham famously told James and Kevin Durant to shut up and dribble following comments they made about President Donald Trump. If you somehow missed it, well, here:
'Shut up and dribble' — Fox News's Laura Ingraham to LeBron and Kevin Durant after their criticism of President Trump pic.twitter.com/0BlokQDIIl— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 16, 2018
James’ response was perfect, and not offering his platform to her by appearing on her show was masterstroke. Allowing Ingraham to turn thinly-veiled racism into a ratings boost would do more harm than good.
'The best thing she did was help me create more awareness' — LeBron on Fox News' Laura Ingraham's comments https://t.co/hp5ATRyXUH pic.twitter.com/DrRUxu38Is— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 17, 2018
After opening up his “I Promise” school, James sat down with Rachel Nichols of ESPN and made it clear he’ll always see himself as more than an athlete:
RN: Earlier this year you were instructed to “shut up and dribble.” If you had listened to that, we would not be sitting in this school that 300 kids are getting the benefit of. But I want to backtrack because those comments came because you were critical of the President. And I wanted to know why, while you do things like this, it’s also important to you to use your voice to stand up for kids like that -- even as high as criticizing the President of the United States?
LJ: Well, for me, I have a voice. I have a platform, and I have so many kids and -- not only kids but also adults that look for guidance and look for someone to lead them at a time when they feel like their voice isn’t powerful. And when you see something that’s unjust and you see something that’s wrong and you see something that’s trying to divide us as a race or as a country, then I feel like my voice can be heard and speak volumes.
Especially coming from the point of sports. I live in sports. Without sports we all wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be talking to you, Rach. You wouldn’t be interviewing me. You know, sports, it stops race. Every race comes together to fight for one common goal, and that’s to win and to have fun and to have camaraderie and things like that. And for someone or a body or parties to try to divide us by using our platform of sport -- sport had given me everything I could ever ask for -- I couldn’t let that happen.
By using my voice and letting the youth know and the people that need the guidance know that I care for them and that I’ll be their voice, it’s passionate for me because like I said: Sports is just the ultimate to bring people together. That’s what I’m here for.
Unless you had a vested interest in James or other athletes who have platforms because of their gifts not using them, why wouldn’t you want someone capable of that level of thought to speak up? Which brings us back to Ingraham.
Those who benefit from the status quo will do anything to ensure that continues. This idea that athletes should not voice their displeasure at social issues of their choosing is nonsensical to the point where you should consider what else might be going on.
Some iteration of “shut up and dribble” has been a common refrain from those who benefit from inequality. The thing about telling athletes to stick to sports is: When else would those who say that kind of thing actually listen to those wronged by societal issues? If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the history of, well, anything, it’s that people aren’t going to search out views that run contrary to their currently-held beliefs.
As James points out, for many, the only time some people might come in contact with anyone from a different backgrounds as their own is in rooting for their sports teams. And there are few more privileged takes one can have than “excuse me, Mr. or Mrs. Person of Color, I know it probably doesn’t sit well with you that people who you care about might have been persecuted in some form or another because of the way they look, but could you just focus more on the aspects of your life that bring me pleasure and less on the parts that make you a human being? Thanks!”
If James stuck to sports, hundreds of kids who would have been directly impacted by his actions would go wanting. If James abided Ingraham’s demands to “shut up and dribble,” millions wouldn’t be inspired by his willingness to be a leader in this respect. The bravery that comes with staring down the vitriol that comes as a result of his lending his voice to these issues will lead to others following suit.
Keep doing your thing, LeBron. And know that as you do so, the racist tirades that follow are just a result of those who benefit from the status quo feeling their power over society slipping away — thus opening the doors for those who follow you that would have been held shut by screaming at you to stop.
Sports have offered people from all kinds of backgrounds (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or otherwise) the opportunity to use their gifts to potentially change the minds of those who would cast aspersions based on those differences.
Jackie Robinson and countless others have fought for decades to show white America that people of color belong.
Billie Jean King fought chauvinism, leading to Brandi Chastain famously continuing to open the world’s eyes to how ridiculous and harmful it is that genders somehow still remain unequal.
At a time where humanitarian crises continue at our very own border, Marc Gasol helped rescue an migrant from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
Those efforts are by no means isolated instances of greatness and must continue, and it’s great to see a game’s greatest athlete lend his voice and his platform to carry on in the footsteps of those who preceded him.