Please don’t just dribble

Double standards arise following athlete’s criticisms of Donald Trump

Leading into the All-Star break, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward LeBron James was joined by the Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant on a taped edition of “Uninterrupted,” James’ multimedia platform for athletes.

They were joined by ESPN’s Cari Champion, host of the ESPN show “Rolling With The Champion.” On the show, the trio’s discussion turned to politics, specifically talking about president Donald Trump.

Their language about the job the president has done was explicit so there will be no direct quotes here, but the general idea was that he is doing a very poor job of running the country. The thoughts of two of the NBA’s premier players was documented on a site dedicated to just that, a platform for players to have a voice and show another side other than sports.

Following the comments from both stars on the showing being released and going viral, an anchor on Fox News had plenty to say. Laura Ingraham sounded off on the athletes sharing their opinions on politics, calling them uneducated for their grammar and ill-informed about the political climate, making their opinions about the situation invalid. She finished her rant on why these athletes sounded stupid and should not have been discussing politics at all by issuing a command to just “shut up and dribble.”

The sports world erupted to the defense of James and Durant while attacking Ingraham’s stance. Plenty of opinions, ranging from the need for all to exercises free speech to Ingraham coming off as a blatant racist, were launched across media platforms and everywhere else. Should James and Durant have the freedom to speak on such matters, despite their fame? Absolutely. Were Ingraham’s comments racist, even if that was not their intent? Possibly. Could both sides have broached the topic more eloquently? Probably. But watching this from afar, only one thing comes to mind: how is this not what we want?

When Michael Jordan drinks and gambles until the early morning, sleeping with everything that moves, he is a poor example. When Adrian Peterson beats his kids or Greg Hardy slaps around his girlfriend, we wag our fingers in protest. When Alden Smith continued to use drugs and Brett Favre became addicted to painkillers, we were distraught. How could our favorite athletes succumb to such ugly ends?

But when James speaks out about political and social issues that he, along with plenty others, finds morally reprehensible, he is shot down. How is this not what we want from the athletes we hold in such high esteem?

James has set an example before, donating $2.5 million to the Boys and Girls Club or starting the After-School All-Stars group in Akron for at-risk youth or his LeBron James Family Foundation for children and young adults to build their education, setting them up for success. When the police shooting continued to pile up a body count, James spoke out here as well, protesting the shooting at the ESPYs.

Now he is faced with a president who already came after one sport for taking a stand, hears the malice that is thrown from the White House and has spoken his mind again. This is everything we should want from our athletes, whom we look up to. James not only is a man of words but of actions. He is trying to affect change in the right way, by working in his community and exercising his freedom to speak as well as protest.

So James, no matter what the ignorant who disagree with you may say, please do not reduce your impact to dribbling.

Photo: FILE – In this Nov. 27, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James is shown during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

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