LeBron vs. Laura Ingraham


Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

Michael Maynard, Staff Writer

In a recent media controversy, Laura Ingraham, a Fox News political commentator and host of The Ingraham Angle, received backlash from her comments to NBA superstar LeBron James after she told him he should “shut up and dribble,” in response to his critical comments on President Trump. As the case with any media dispute, both have their points, both have their reaches, and the issue already seems like forever ago.

Before I get serious, Laura Ingraham has clearly never watched an NBA game. Any NBA fan knows LeBron travels with the basketball all the time and gets away with it. PFT Commenter from Barstool Sports made this observation in his column from the week of February 19. Essentially, NBA fans have been telling him to shut up (stop complaining to the refs all the time) and dribble (stop traveling) for years.

The fundamental question boils down to “How much responsibility do athletes have in sharing their political views?” LeBron has done plenty to support causes for underprivileged kids and works to fix racial discrimination. He opened a middle school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He gave $2.5 million to the Boys and Girls Club foundation after the infamous “Decision” in 2010 and he’s done enough to show he’s a good person and represents himself well in the community and is more than himself. That isn’t a matter of politics, but his political positions are well known also. He has been critical of Trump since day one and was an active supporter of President Obama and the Clintons.

The National Anthem Protests are the most covered example of the idea of politics in sports. Colin Kaepernick took a stand when he took a knee, and a lot has come out of it. He’s done what he can to fight police brutality, and maybe one day he can see a solution. He went to a Super Bowl, was a well known personality, and he had the platform to spread his message. He put his reputation on the line for a cause intended to be bigger than himself. However, with or without protests, Kaepernick is a fringe starting quarterback and is better suited as a backup. LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. He has the leverage to speak out more.

Ingraham’s comments have generally been perceived two ways. One side says athletes need to worry about playing their sports and that they aren’t qualified to talk about world issues. The other side says it’s their responsibility because they have the platform. It’s probably somewhere in between. Most athletes that take stances or are active in the community are probably good people, and like I said in my MSU article, “sports instill good character.” LeBron probably isn’t politically motivated—he just wants to help solve problems, and he doesn’t have to pander to an audience in the way a politician would.

However, many people don’t want politics and sports overlapping. Where politics divide us, sports unite us. When it seems there’s no break from political headlines, we have sports to alleviate the tension. Instead of worrying about what will or won’t be funded in the budget or how to solve illegal immigration, for a select time period, we can tune all that out and worry about if our favorite teams can win a game, and come together for a common cause.

We don’t have much unity in society. Sports is the one place we can forget societal problems and come together with those we wouldn’t interact with otherwise. It’s why President Obama filled out his March Madness bracket on national TV. It’s why Presidents have thrown out first pitches at baseball games. The hope is that for a brief instant we can look at each other as fellow Americans. Instead of gender, race, religion, or political party, we can unite in terms of a community, whether that’s at a High School football game, a college basketball game, or the Super Bowl.

It’s been established that LeBron would be offended by what Ingraham said, but she does have the right to say it. As a matter of fact, that’s kind of her job. The job of her and every other cable news program is to get ratings. She made a reference to LeBron not finishing high school, which is false because he did. He went right from high school to the NBA and skipped college, which was common back then. Maybe this confused her, but it hurt her credibility. While that doesn’t matter, the fact that we’re covering this shows she did her job. She wanted to appeal to an audience bothered by an athlete speaking out politically, and she did. She also upset a lot of people, but that’s how this always works.

Freedom of speech is naturally going to cause some hurt feelings, but it’s better to the alternative where feelings can’t be fully shared at all. In all honestly, LeBron should stop giving in to the outrage because he has enough to worry about right now with the Cavs. The Cavs made a bunch of trades, and LeBron should have all his attention on creating chemistry with his new teammates to make another playoff run. On the other hand, Ingraham isn’t a sports commentator, and there’s plenty going on politically in this country. In the same way sports commentators shouldn’t dissect politics, political commentators  shouldn’t dissect sports.

Both Laura Ingraham and LeBron James have the leverage to start this type of controversy. The extent of this controversy is unfortunate because it didn’t accomplish anything significant. If they really feel as strongly as they do about this issue, maybe they should sit down and have a civilized discussion. That being unlikely, it’s better if they both stick to their strengths do their jobs without needing to stir up a debate.