Athletes, entertainers, and celebrities should talk about issues

There’s been a bit of controversy over comments made by Fox News host Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James and Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble,” after the pair criticized President Donald Trump in a podcast/video for Uninterrupted.

Ingraham has been roundly criticized for her comments, with Eugene Scott at The Washington Post saying she’s just trying to continue Trump’s efforts to silence political athletes. James and Durant aren’t planning to “shut up and dribble,” and Ingraham swears she wasn’t being racist, but just wants celebrities and athletes to stick to their trade, and not venture into politics.

I used to be in Ingraham’s camp on athletes, celebrities, and entertainers not being involved in politics, but my opinion on the issue has changed since The Dixie Chicks made their famous comments against President George W. Bush years ago. The fact is non-pundits, whether they be athletes, celebrities, and entertainers have always been involved in politics. Tom Brady had a Make America Great Again cap in his locker. Contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith endorsed Bush in his runs for office. Rage Against the Machine has been mixing their socialist nuttery with wicked guitar riffs for years, while Black Sabbath criticized the Vietnam War in 1970 with their excellent song, War Pigs. Muse promotes libertarianish ideals in their songs, and Toby Keith wrote a song with the lyrics, “we’ll put a boot in your (butt),” in response to September 11th. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore was originally a criticism of Thatcherian England, and the Wachowskis turned the movie version into a criticism of the Iraq War. Tom Clancy used his Jack Ryan novels to criticize various strategies in DC, and Chuck Dixon is a proud conservative author, although he doesn’t really sprinkle politics into his books. Let’s also not forget Clint Eastwood’s speech at the GOP Convention, along with the various celebrities who endorsed Barack Obama. Celebrity endorsements in politics aren’t new, and date back to the time of Charlie Chaplin. So, it’s not really a new phenomena for celebrities to lend star power to politicians.

One thing which should be pointed out is James and Durant aren’t being activists while playing the actual game. Both NBAers made their comments off the court, and it wasn’t like they stopped a game to start saying, “Dump Trump!” The same goes for coaches like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich who decide to get political during question and answer sessions with reporters during practice. It’s nice to see athletes and entertainers actually “give back” to their communities, by trying to better it, in one way, shape, or form. I’d have more of an issue with their comments during a game like when Bob Costas went off on guns or Vin Scully took down socialism in Venezuela during a Dodgers game. I’m not a huge fan of the National Anthem protests either, but they happen before kickoff or first pitch or tip-off or puck drop. The game, to me, doesn’t begin until the clock starts winding down.

Ingraham is not the target audience of Durant and James’ commentary. But the discussion with Cari Chapman is actually quite enlightening on the environment young, black men can have, and how they handle going from the inner city to having a lot of money. It’s nothing different from Dez Bryant discussing his his troubled childhood or Trevor Daley talking about what it’s like being a black guy playing hockey. The same goes for Jason Witten mentioning how he grew up poor or Tim Tebow talking openly about his faith.

One thing Ingraham does deserve plenty of criticism for is the insult of saying, “this is what happens when you try to leave high school a year early to join the NBA.” That’s flat-out elitism, and something I believed so-called conservatives were above. There are plenty of conservatives who do not have college degrees, including Dana Loesch, Rush Limbaugh, and (apparently) Sean Hannity. Should people stop listening to those three because they don’t have a college education? Or is it okay because they’re backing “the right” party?

So let them all talk. I may disagree with what’s being said, but it’s nice to see celebrities and athletes being more than just vapid individuals.