The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect in any way those of the Tiger Media Network, its staff or Fort Hays State University.
BY MARIAH SMITH
Cari Champion is a reporter for ESPN. On February 14th, she hosted an interview with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Lebron James (Cavaliers) and Kevin Durant (Warriors) during an Uber ride as part of the Bleacher Report’s Uninterrupted series — which took place the night before the athletes played against each other in their teams’ last regular season meeting.
The three discussed several topics during the interview, including the racial slur spray painted across James’ home in May 2017. What’s proving to be the most controversial topic was politics. Champion asked them about their thoughts on the country’s status, political climate and the president. As athletes who want to be socially involved, Lebron replied candidly, saying that the “number one job in America… is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a [bleep] about the people.” He continued, “While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch and listen to us that this is not the way.”
Durant chimed in, “When we talk about leadership, and what’s going on in our country — it’s all about leadership…. I feel our team as a country is not ran* by a great coach.” The camera cut back to Lebron. “It’s not even a surprise when he says something… it’s laughable and scary,” said James.
On Feb 16, Fox News anchor, Laura Ingraham, discussed this interview in her segment, The Ingraham Angle. In just over two minutes, she attempted to make a mockery of these two men and what they had to say. She started by joking about a new segment called “dumb jock alert” and made what I can only assume was a bell sound..? She introduced the story as Lebron talking “R-Rated” politics. Already off to a bad start. One f-bomb doesn’t make anything R-Rated… actually. But I digress.
“Here’s his barely intelligible — not to mention ungrammatical — take on a new [sarcastic excitement] ESPN podcast,” Ingraham said before a short clip of Lebron’s response played. Laura returned for more sarcasm and to introduce Champion and Durant into the conversation. Then Durant’s response was shown, as well as dialogue between Champion and James “I shouldn’t be numb to racist comments. I shouldn’t be numb to your behavior.”
When she returned, the story was titled Jocks on Politics at the bottom of the screen. She slyly laughed and said, “I’m numb to this commentary, like… Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately, a lot of kids and some adults take these ignorant comments seriously.” said Ingraham.
Run their mouths? This is hardly smack talk. Nothing more than she is doing herself. We call it “shade.”
“This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA,” Ingraham continues.
Here she implies that James’ lack of education and massive early career success correlates to his political intelligence or opinions. It doesn’t take a college degree or even high school diploma to see that what is happening in our leadership is unnerving.
“And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” said Ingraham.
Okay… here’s where her responses start taking a turn for plain old hypocritical. First of all, I’m no sports fan, but basketball is more complex than bouncing a ball. And I’m not sure what a professional athlete’s salary has to do with their competency in politics or speaking their opinion? Granted, this is coming from someone who earns $2 million a year to sit in front of a camera and present extremely biased information, alternative facts, and calls it “news.” Ok next:
“Lebron, and Kevin? You’re great players but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach,” said Ingraham.
In reality, 2.6 million fans voted for Lebron to start in the 2018 NBA All-Star game, for the fourteenth year in a row now. He was also voted the league MVP four times, which ties him with Michale Jordan. (Again, not a sports fan, just a millennial with Google.) As far as votes on stating political opinion go, no one voted for you either, sis. I’m not sure how your opinion is any more important or needs to be heard more than any other citizens’ opinion. And if we’re talking about the presidential popular vote, which I’m assuming she is, Trump still fell short by 3 million to Hillary Clinton. But.. yeah, sure… “we” voted for him.
“Keep the political commentary to yourself, or, as someone once said: Shut up and Dribble.” More on this later. This is the statement that really put her under the microscope.
After returning from commercials, Ingraham continued her attack, now turning to Durant, and his grammatical mistake (noted in his quote above).
“I still can’t get over the fact that KD said ‘I feel like our country is not ran by a great coach. Does that mean I should [stutters] go for a ran tomorrow morning before my radio show?” Ingraham says.
So the news host is now a grammatical expert and a comedian? Interesting. I thought if athletes had to stick to sports, news anchors should stick to the news? No? Guess not. I hope she got a good chuckle out of that weak jab. She’s probably the only one who was genuinely entertained by that unnecessary comment.
Ingraham was met very quickly with scathing backlash. Her “shut up and dribble” comment has been called racist by many. And while I don’t see a direct racial component, I do see extreme hypocrisy. She insisted that she’s been using that phrase, but swapping out the verb for 15 years to call out celebrity political commentary, mentioning her 2006 book Shut Up and Sing. She has, in fact, been known to try to silence many left-wing celebrities out of political commentary. Her most recent targeted Jimmy Kimmel after he criticized the GOP’s ACA replacement attempts, saying “shut up and make us laugh every once in a while.”
I find it interesting that Ingraham expects celebrities to stay out of politics for many reasons. The first being that the man in office as we speak, was, in fact, a celebrity prior to taking office. He had a TV show, The Apprentice. Even more so, he was known for frivolous spending, giving his unsolicited opinions and crude comments and gestures towards women or anyone who crossed him. Ingraham isn’t the first person to slam celebrities for their political interest, and I’m sure she won’t be the last. On another, more important note — at the end of the day, celebrities and athletes are citizens too. They are expected to pay taxes and have the right to vote, just like everyone else. Suddenly, when they have a platform, they’re no longer allowed to be politically invested or speak their opinions? Or is it just when they push a “left” or “liberal” agenda that is contradictory? Do you expect them to just pay their taxes and ignore what their money is going toward or the decisions that are being made for everyone else? Politics affect them too. And even if it didn’t affect them, they have the same right to speak their minds freely, granted by the first amendment. The same right that allows Fox and Ingraham to speak their minds, no matter how ignorant or hypocritical they may be.
James responded within days stating that Ingraham’s comments only enlarged his message, and helped him create more awareness.
“I get to sit up here and talk about social injustice…. We will definitely not shut up and dribble.”
Photo Credit: Fox News