In February of 2018, LeBron James, along with Kevin Durant, did a wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Cari Champion. During the interview, politics and President Trump came up, and James said the following:
“The №1 job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people, some of the president’s comments are laughable and scary.”
Less than a week later, Laura Ingram of Fox News defended the President, belittling James and his right to have a political opinion.
“It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball. Keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.
Apparently, throwing passes is different because she later defended New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is white when he criticized those taking a knee and protesting during the playing the national anthem.’
“He’s allowed to have his view about what kneeling and the flag mean to him. I mean, he’s a person; he has some worth, I would imagine.”
Drew Brees faced a backlash from several of his teammates and many in the community of New Orleans. He apologized for his comments, calling them insensitive:
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”
Laura Ingram made no such apology though, did attempt to explain away her hypocrisy.
The stakes are higher now, and the NBA playoffs have been suspended because players are boycotting the games in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin policeman Rustin Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the force. Jacob Blake has been hospitalized after surviving several shots from close range in his back. His father says doctors told him Jacob would likely be paralyzed from the waist down.
This, of course, comes after the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville, Kentucky police in her home. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota officers, one of whom knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia. The shooting of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta, Georgia police after he fell asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane, and more.
Those murders, particularly that of George Floyd, sparked protests across the nation, that can’t even die down before another senseless killing of a black man or woman takes place. Black athletes come from cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta, Kenosha, and Louisville. They have families in those communities. They themselves are not exempt from harassment and fear of police stops. Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown was arrested, assaulted, and tased while confronted by at least seven officers for illegally parking across two handicapped spaces. Had he not been recognized by one of the officers, he might be dead as well.
Sterling Brown is participating with the Bucks in the NBA Playoffs with all the games being played in a single Orlando, Florida location with all the players and staff being contained in “a bubble” due to the COVID-19 virus. All the playoff teams are in the same hotels and able to get together in person in a way that normally isn’t possible. The Milwaukee Bucks, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, play in a city forty miles from Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake was shot. They were the first team to boycott a playoff game, refusing to take the court against the Orlando Magic, who they were leading in the series by a three games to one margin and close to eliminating. The next game scheduled was also canceled with the teams voting to boycott, and the league with little choice postponed further play until something was worked out.
The Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball supported the Bucks by boycotting their scheduled game. The Detroit Lions of the NFL boycotted a practice over the Jacob Blake shooting. Athletes, mostly Black but not all, from across multiple leagues, are making a statement that change needs to come. At one point, NBA players, reportedly led by LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, pushed for boycotting the rest of the NBA playoffs, effectively canceling the season.
Gone are the days where most players were concerned about the impact on their careers if they took a stand. Muhammad Ali lost three years of his career for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. Some players did take political stands like; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Arthur Ashe. Others not so untouchable were erased from the scene like Craig Hodges of the Chicago Bulls, track stars, and Olympic Silver Medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, along with the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick. This generation of athletes is starting to ignore the Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods model of avoiding stands on issues of race, instead, they are leading the charge and demanding change.
The suspension of the NBA Playoffs has forced America to pay attention. Players will hopefully turn their rage into a strategy and use their influence and power to force real change. Otherwise, this will be an opportunity lost. They must come up with a plan that contains doable and measurable action items. They must be prepared to risk their income and careers to support justice.
In the meantime, a word of caution to Laura Ingram or those of her ilk that thinks this is the time to reprimand these players for not shutting up or refusing to dribble. The backlash will be severe. Tucker Carlson of Fox News went on air defending a white seventeen-year-old vigilante who shot three protesters, killing two. He portrayed him as a victim though there is a video of him running toward his first victim before he fatally shot him. There is significant support for what the players are doing, and team owners, advertisers, and league commissioners aren’t driving this car, it’s the players. The wrong statement might direct their focus back on you for spilling your hate-filled propaganda, so beware. The urban translation is, “don’t start none won’t be none.”
Writer, poet, wannabe philosopher. I write about politics, history, race and social justice. Support me at https://ko-fi.com/williamfspivey0680
Previously Published on Medium
Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash