On Feb. 15, prior to NBA All-Star weekend, a video of LeBron James and Kevin Durant surfaced. The video was from Uber’s Uninterrupted series called “Rolling with the Champion,” featuring ESPN’s Cari Champion. Champion drove an Uber with the superstars talking about their success, the NBA All-Star Game, their influence and social issues. Quickly, the video got a reaction from Fox News, particularly Laura Ingraham.
The Uninterrupted video shows James and Durant being driven around James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. The video was recorded Jan. 14, prior to a matchup between James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Durant’s Golden State Warriors. The group made three stops: at the community center where James was introduced to basketball, the apartments where James moved with his mother and St. Vincent’s/St. Mary’s High School where LeBron was first recognized and was eventually drafted out of.
James and Durant reflected on their influence and the millions of kids who look up to them. They mentioned Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King Jr. as their own inspirations. James spoke about the importance of his position by saying, “The three most influential people to the kids are the president, the top athlete and the top musician. That is what is alarming.” James has been one of the most vocal athletes about social issues, notably following the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. At the time, James and his former team, the Miami Heat, took a picture in hoodies like Martin was wearing when he was shot to raise awareness and show their own vulnerability as black men in America.
James has been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump, previously calling him a “bum.” In the video James said, “[Trump] doesn’t understand the people. Frankly, he doesn’t give a f*** about the people.”
Durant echoed James’s comments by saying, “This country is a team, and we are not being run by a good coach.” James and Durant commented that no amount of money exempts them from being black men in America and the racism rampant today. In 2017, James’s Brentwood home was vandalized with the “N-word” spray-painted on his garage door during the NBA Finals.
Following the video, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham attacked James. She started off the segment saying, “A spoiled athlete talks smack about Trump, now he will be smacked back.” Ingraham went on to say that James was “barely intelligible and ungrammatical in the ESPN Podcast.” She then went on to ask, “Must they run their mouths like this with their ignorant comments? Kids, this is what happens when you leave high school a year early to join the NBA.”
James was born to a 16-year-old single mother in a low-income neighborhood, and he did not grow up spoiled or privileged by any means. In fact, James graduated high school at one of the top rated high schools in the nation and could have gone to college. He and Kobe Bryant are two of the few basketball players to be drafted out of high school, James being taken by his hometown Cavilers with the first overall pick.
Ingraham’s most inflammatory comments were telling James and Durant to “shut up and dribble.” She went on to say, “No one voted for you. You’re paid $100 million to bounce a basketball.” Quickly, Ingraham received backlash and back peddled, saying, “The left is going crazy, calling me racist. My comments were not racist.” She proved this by showing white actors she had attacked. However, her use of “they”, and calling James “unintelligent” while ignoring his on and off the court accomplishments say otherwise.
Prior to the all-star game, James responded to Ingraham, saying, “I had no idea who she was. She won in that way. She probably didn’t even write what she said, she just read from a teleprompter. I will definitely not ‘shut up and dribble.’ I mean too much to the youth and society. I did finish high school. I graduated early.”
James quickly took to Instagram, posting a picture with the words, “I am more than an athlete” illuminated with the simple hashtag “we will not shut up and dribble.” The hashtag quickly went viral. NBA commissioner Adam Silver showed his support, and proclaimed that James and Durant are qualified and have a duty to talk about social issues.
The internet quickly responded to Ingraham’s comments. Chris Long, from the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, tweeted, “LeBron is qualified to talk politics? Well here are people Fox News thinks are…”
Long then posted a thread of athletes, musicians, and actors with conservative slants from Fox News, including Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Chuck Norris and Jon Voit.
On Monday, ESPN’s “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith fired back at Ingraham. Smith said, “They were not talking politics or mentioning specific policies. They know what the highest office in the land is supposed to mean, and Trump has fallen short. James and Durant are being held to a higher standard than the president and given more criticism.” Smith’s co-host Max Kellerman then added, “Ingraham is a professional propagandist. If she does not understand the issues in the nation and what they were talking about, she clearly has a problem with her cognitive ability.” On the show’s “Final Take” Smith said, “Ingraham is not a stupid woman. She knows exactly what she is doing. She just doesn’t care. She is preaching to her base and Trump. When she says to shut up, she’s telling all of us to shut up. It is akin to telling women to stay in the kitchen. Why didn’t she tell Trump to go back to ‘The Apprentice?’”
Ingraham’s comments further united the NBA and professional athletes who are now routinely attacked by Trump and his surrogates. Trump attacked the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry after the team announced they would not go to the White House. None of the team members were to go. Trump did not attack the team’s coach Steve Kerr, who regularly criticizes him and his policies. He did not attack the San Antonio Spurs’ Greg Popovich who also criticizes him. However, Trump did call athletes who protested the national anthem “sons of b****es.” He also attacked Jay-Z when he took issue with his policies.
Make no mistake; Ingraham’s comments, Trump’s feuds and attacks from his base are racially motivated. What was their issue with President Obama? It may be hard for them to pinpoint it, but when it comes down to it, it is his race. This administration and Fox News are full of hate and white supremacists. Our country needs outspoken figures like LeBron James and Kevin Durant to make sure our young people know this is not normal. We need inspiration and someone to look up to, since they cannot look up to the person in the highest office in the land anymore.