How should we respond to athletes voicing their political opinions?

The NBA All-Star Weekend brought us storylines about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, injuries and Joel Embiid’s controversial run in the Skills Challenge.  But perhaps the biggest storyline of the weekend is the controversy between LeBron James and Fox News host Laura Ingraham.  

“Uninterrupted” is a YouTube channel funded by ESPN, on which both current and former athletes talk about issues that surround them or issues around the country. This is one of the platforms that LeBron James used to voice his dislike of President Donald Trump. Previously, James had called Trump “a bum” and said that he doesn’t care about the people. In this video, both James and Durant were critical of Trump, and fuel was added to the fire by Champion, who encouraged the conversation, as any good host should.

Laura Ingraham and Fox News did not appreciate this content. Ingraham went on her show on the same day that the video was posted and went after both James and Durant in a personal way. Ingraham called James’ political commentary “unintelligible” and “ungrammatical.” She also poked fun at LeBron not going to college and getting an education. Ingraham ended her segment by saying, “LeBron and Kevin, you’re great players, but no one voted for you. Millions of people elected Trump to be their ‘coach,’ so keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, ‘shut up and dribble.’”

I am a conservative person. I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But I do not support what Laura Ingraham said to and about LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Regardless of what I think of King James’ and KD’s comments about the President, they have the right to say those things and hold those opinions. Ingraham’s statements were fine until she overstepped her right to free speech when she told James and Durant to “shut up and dribble.” Saying that these athletes do not know what they are talking about, or aren’t smart enough to understand, while it is a poor opinion to have and voice, is fine. But telling them that they should not voice their opinion because it does not coincide with yours crosses the line, and violates the First Amendment.

American citizens do not forfeit their right to free speech as soon as they become famous.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Cari Champion are going to keep voicing their opinions, whether the people at Fox News like it or not. So, what should Laura Ingraham have done in this situation?

There are two good ways to handle this. First, she could have just said that James and Durant’s opinions are wrong and that we shouldn’t listen to them because they are basketball players, not political figures, which is a valid argument. The other way she could have handled the situation is to give examples of Trump caring about the American public and how his policies are designed to help people who are struggling.

In any circle of discussion or argument, it takes more than just telling the other party that they are “a dumb jock” to win an argument, or to persuade anyone. Providing evidence as to why they are wrong would help more.

“LeBron James speaks about politics, that’s his right, he’s allowed to do that. Some of the stuff he says I think is not completely wrong. But why would we treat, as a country, his version of politics with more credibility than people who have studied the issues, studied the personalities for a long time? I don’t, and I don’t think other people should,” said Ben Shapiro on ep. 478 of his podcast The Ben Shapiro.  

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives everyone a voice, regardless of their views and beliefs or even their social or economic status. The United States is great because of the diversity in opinions. However, these opinions cannot be attacked based on their sources. If people are told not to think for themselves, our society will lose the attributes that made it great.