No, Athletes Shouldn’t Just ‘Shut Up’ and Play

Decorated pro basketball player LeBron James recently criticized President Trump and discussed his experiences with race and fame on ESPN. But Fox News reporter Laura Ingraham didn’t like it.

“It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said. “Keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.”

While she’s gotten a lot of backlash for her condemnation, Ingraham isn’t the first to tell an athlete to stay mum on politics.

As award-winning sports journalist Dave Zirin has often noted, “If you look historically at athletes who today are admired for their courageous honesty—people like Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Jim Brown and Bill Russell—they were all told by the sports columnists of their day that they should button their lips and just play.”

Athletes have long been part of the fight for social justice. Decades before James and Colin Kaepernick, National Basketball League player Craig Hodges fought for economic and racial equality. And he’s only one of many examples.

Today, skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon are promoting LGBTQ rights at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Meanwhile, bobsledder Kehri Jones is trying to balance speaking out against police brutality with national pride.

“I am an African American woman and my family is all African American…I worry about my family and my siblings and my father going out and ending up in some of these awful situations,” Jones told The New York Times last September. “It’s a really fine line I’m walking because my dad is in the military and I want to represent our country well…but I also want to represent all the social injustice that has been going on.”

Athletes are just as much a part of this country as anyone else. Furthermore, their influence can be more powerful than the average activist.

Charles Grantham, former National Basketball Players Association executive director, writes in The Undefeated that leagues need to back these causes. They need to leverage their billions in revenue for good, taking advantage of their political lobbying power and outreach to schools to drive real change.

Contrary to popular belief, sports are an ideal platform for people to take a stand. And as for James? He’s resolved to keep speaking out.

“We will definitely not shut up and dribble,” he told NPR. “I mean too much to society, too much to the youth, too much to so many kids who feel like they don’t have a way out.

“I had no idea who she is … until now. So she won in that case.”

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr

65 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

ty

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Brian F
Brian F6 months ago

Laura Ingraham sounds like the Hillary supporters who told Bernie Sanders supporters to shut up and fall in line, after the Democrats cheated Bernie Sanders out of his primary, which caused this crook Trump to win. Free speech is a right, unless your a progressive who supports Bernie Sanders in the corrupt Democratic party that is in bed with Wall Street, banks, big pharma, and corporations.

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Deborah W
Deborah W6 months ago

ON A PERSONAL BASIS, ALL ARE FREE TO VOICE THEIR OPINIONS. Personal belief is that when you join n a group-herd representing a specific platform, to leverage personal billions and fame for both good and bad reasons, it becomes a mixed bag of issues which widen the divides. For those who have moved on and forward (case in point, citing as a "Negro National Anthem" what is simply a "Lift Every Voice and Sing" song from early civil rights movement days), many issues no longer hold more than their rightful historical place in the long-ago. Time to come together ...

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Paul B
Paul B6 months ago

Since when does political affiliation and ideology become the measure of someone's worth. With all the protests, demonstrations, PC correctness and activism bleeding into every aspect of our lives, it does appear, like Jamie says, to becoming a central meme in our society. Healthy debate is becoming hateful vitriol which basically stifles any possibility of reconciliation.
When freedoms of speech are limited to only one perspective, bad times ensue... as repeatedly displayed in world history.

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v soar
v soar6 months ago

Pauk B. Try BBC world news. Or Al Jazeera. Neither perfect but a great deal better than what you have.

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Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

I think people ought to have strong opinions (prefetably bleeding heart socialist and left) Fame carries a responsibility to live up to that fame. Athletes must further a cause, always

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Mike R
Mike R6 months ago

Thanks

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Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 months ago

Aside from his rights to freedom of speech how far are we going to take this? Does everything need to be contaminated by politics? Are we going to be bombarded by someones political rhetoric at every game and every entertainment event? Just food for thought.

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Nancy W
Nancy W6 months ago

Oh dear how does this contribute anything to the conversation if there is no respect or dignity given to people who have a right to protest.

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