Fox News host Laura Ingraham made headlines last week for telling basketball superstar LeBron James to “shut up and dribble”. Her comments came after LeBron and fellow NBA All-Star Kevin Durant appeared on an ESPN podcast in which the two players were highly critical of President Donald Trump’s job performance thus far. Ingraham did not stop there; according to Ingraham, LeBron is “barely intelligible,” “ungrammatical” and “ignorant.” The clip goes on for over two cringe-worthy minutes in which the rude host continues her rampage with racism, baseless claims and a complete lack of knowledge about LeBron.
Before we delve into all of that, let us start with this: no one knew who Ingraham was before this clip went viral. She has been a Fox News host since Halloween of last year, meaning her show is younger than the current NBA season. Ingraham was only given this opportunity after Bill O’Reilly was unceremoniously shown the door. Even LeBron could not remember the host’s name when asked about her comments a few days later. Ingraham is a no-name conservative pundit who looks exactly like every other conservative pundit Fox News has produced for the past two decades. Her comments were an attempt to get LeBron, arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world, to stoop down to her level and become involved in a war of words that would inevitably drive up her ratings.
Still, it does not detract from the absurdity and overall discourtesy of her words. To somehow suggest that LeBron, an American in all the same ways that Ingraham is, does not have the right to comment on his commander-in-chief just because he is a basketball player is foolish. When last checked, the constitution affords LeBron just as many votes that Ingraham is allotted. The United States is a democracy where citizens are allowed and are encouraged to speak their minds.
Furthermore, LeBron has a platform that expands far beyond Ingraham’s reach: he is the most influential athlete in the country; his departure from the league would send waves of hysteria throughout all of professional sports. Ingraham’s departure from Fox News would not cause a ripple.
LeBron is not just some forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is much bigger than Ingraham and most other athletes on the planet, for that matter. He is a businessman, an icon, a role model, a movie star, a father and most importantly of all — a U.S. citizen. A citizen who has a fundamental right, and arguably an obligation to speak his mind. Millions of little boys and girls everywhere look up to LeBron and pay attention to everything he says. If he believes there is an injustice at the highest level of our country, neglecting to call it out would be shameful.
Arguably, the worst part of Ingraham’s tirade was when she incorrectly asserted that “this is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early” in response to LeBron’s criticism of her beloved president. The statement only solidifies her own ignorance. LeBron did not go to college for the same reason Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college: to pursue better opportunities. LeBron could have gone to college to play basketball and get a degree, however he was talented enough at 18-years-old to compete with the best basketball players in the world. Going to college would have only delayed his inevitable dominance in the NBA. Ingraham makes it sound like LeBron did not go to college because he was not smart enough, when in reality the opportunities offered to him out of high school were way better than anything a college experience could have provided him. Implying that LeBron is not intelligent is plain irresponsible considering the overwhelming success he also had in his off-court business ventures.
Lastly, LeBron is the embodiment of the “American Dream.” He was born into poverty and worked his way up to become one of the wealthiest athletes in the world. He never knew his father and the man he called “Dad” spent much of his childhood in prison. The would-be Olympic gold medalist usually slept on a couch in one of the half dozen apartments he was forced to relocate to in Akron, Ohio as his mother struggled to make ends meet. Through hard work, LeBron somehow defied all odds to become a basketball legend in the face of such extreme adversity.
Ingraham, on the other hand was raised by a conventional middle-class white family in Glastonbury, Connecticut and attended Dartmouth College. She is representative of nearly every stereotypical elitist conservative; a story the nation has heard a thousand times. I am not interested in Ingraham’s point of view considering her credibility concerning recent events. While I do not doubt her journey has been hard, it is nothing compared to that of LeBron. The life of a pretty white blonde woman in Connecticut is not equivalent to the life a young African American boy in the slums of Ohio.
While Ingraham undoubtedly worked hard to achieve her dreams, she was born with opportunities that many do not have the privilege to experience. LeBron had to hustle every day to escape a situation that many others are never able to escape, perhaps influencing his famous “Strive for Greatness” campaign.
Ingraham does not care about the truth of these facts. No matter what LeBron has done or will continue to do for his businesses, his family, his community, his sport and his country, some people will always view him solely as a black man from the slums with a high school degree. Dartmouth alumna Ingraham is one of these people. Fox News constantly brings on celebrities to discuss politics, but when a black man with a liberal opinion speaks out, apparently, he just needs to “shut up and dribble.” It is doubtful Ingraham would have been as harsh if LeBron instead professed his love for Trump.
LeBron gives the country a unique point of view, one from a group of the country that is too often underrepresented. Ingraham gives us the same rhetoric that people can find on Fox News every hour of the day. Just like those easily replaceable talking heads, Ingraham is too ignorant to see the world from someone else’s point of view. This is who she has always been and who she always will be.
As much as Ingraham and Trump wish that the United States was part of Russia, it is not. Here in the United States, every citizen has a right to state their opinion, regardless of whether they are the best basketball player in the world or a narrow-minded ignoramus with her own television show. That is the beauty of the United States and something that Ingraham, despite her Ivy League education, clearly has never taken the time to learn.
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