With over 76.5 million followers on his social media platforms, Lebron James has always used his following to speak on issues he deems as important. In an interview with Kevin Durant and Cari Champion, Lebron James shared his opinion on our president, Donald J. Trump, and our currently divided nation.
The viral video shows Fox News anchor, Laura Ingraham, taking stabs at James. Continuously, she insults his intelligence and creditability by accusing James of not finishing high school, calling his political beliefs “barely unintelligible.” Aside from the false claim, Ingraham then finished her comments on the interview by stating that NBA stars should “shut up and dribble.”
Yet, Lebron James is not one to hide in the shadows and dismiss these remarks. In fact, he has made it public that he will not conform to her statement.
“We will definitely not shut up and dribble,” James said. “I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out, and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”
Ingraham’s infamous statement, which claims to be non-racial, has begun a topic of discussion on whether or not pro athletes should use their platforms to spread awareness. However, what Ingraham fails to realize is that these public figures are much more than skilled athletes. They are leaders, role models and just like the rest of America, have opinions.
James pointed out in the viral video that the youth often tend to look to pro athletes and leaders for inspiration in hopes of defying the odds of their current situations. However, strength comes in numbers; one athlete out of thousands will not impact society enough.
As unfortunate as it might be, one pro athlete’s voice can, at times, be louder than the people of America. Despite their large houses, fan bases and money, these athletes face the same struggles the rest of America does. With millions watching and following their every move, pro athletes should be using their resources to stand up for their own beliefs, no matter the repercussions.
Social change begins from one person and ultimately creates a chain reaction. However, with such a few athletes like Lebron James taking part in the movement, a handful of voices cannot create such change all on their own. In light of the statement “shut up and dribble,” professional athletes can use this controversy to their advantage to grow their platforms.
Their actions could show the youth that flippant statements similar to these are unacceptable. Whether it was racial or not, the statement has implied that with no political affiliation, people of America should silence their opinions and beliefs.
Sports legends such as Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson were a few who never silenced their political opinions and have made sports leagues no stranger to these statements. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick joined the list of legends and took a knee during the national anthem in protest of social injustices.
The mass amount of backlash received urged athletes to stick to sports and keep their beliefs to themselves. Although this controversy hurt Kaepernick’s career, it began a much-needed conversation with the issue. Most athletes stay silent on their beliefs in fear of negative consequences to their careers, but silence will never resolve any of the issues at hand.
Coinciding with the fear of backlash many athletes try to avoid, there is the heated debate over the mix of sports and politics. President Donald Trump and NFL owner Jerry Jones are prime examples of this close-minded belief that athletes who have publicly demonstrated political affiliation should not play.
The belief is one that needs to be challenged as oppression continues to exist, on and off the field. Although sports were originally designed to unite fans across the world, with the fragile state this nation faces, it is crucial that these uncomfortable issues are addressed, no matter the arena these athletes perform in.
From a historical perspective, consider where would the nation be today if Cesar Chavez shut up and went to back to his farm. Where would the nation be if Rosa Parks shut up and went to the back of the bus? What would society be like for women if Abigail Adams shut up and went back to the kitchen?
All of these people played huge roles in the outcome of society today and all shared one thing in common — injustice.
Without Cesar Chavez fighting for migrant workers, Rosa Parks making her statement that she was just as equal to a white man and Abigail Adams fighting for gender equality, America would not provide the same opportunities it does today. Due to the impact these individuals made, the world is now a better place because they refused to “shut up.”
If Lebron James can take Laura Ingraham’s perspective into account, educating youth on the differences between right and wrong, then athletes too should be able to be vocal about America’s underlying issues.
However, despite all the progress made, there is still a long way to go. The divide the nation faces will not disappear overnight, but athletes can aid in closing the gap with their large platforms.
Next time you attend your favorite game, try scrolling through your social media timelines to see one of your favorite athletes taking a stand for what they believe in. Also, listen to their opinions before closing your mind to a different perspective.
After all, even though many Americans face different injustices, one thing these athletes have in common with the people of America is the right to an opinion and a desire for change.