“Shut up and Dribble”: A Demonstration of Thinly Veiled Racism and its Prominence

As most have probably seen by now, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham recently made headline news for attacking LeBron James over the comments he and co-superstar Kevin Durant made in an interview with broadcast journalist Cari Champion. LeBron’s comments, though polarized, were not excessively inflammatory. In fact, they were not even an attack on any specific policies. Most importantly, they were far from unfair. In the entire segment, which Ingraham samples, his most political comment was as follows: “The number one job in America—the point of person—is someone who doesn’t understand the people… and really don’t give a fuck about the people”.

According to her sloppy rebuttal to LeBron’s opinion, Ingraham vehemently disagrees. She disagrees despite the fact that LeBron grew up in a poor family and a bad neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, and he understands the people he is referring to far more than either the president or herself. Ingraham is either too obtuse to understand, or chooses to completely disregard the fact that “the people” LeBron is referring to are clearly not the same as “the people” that make up her peers and audience.

Ingraham’s ensuing comments in response to the interview are troubling for a variety of reasons. They’re dismissive, aimlessly accusatory, and have an undeniably racist undertone that goes completely unpunished. This is all not to mention that her argument is sloppy and completely unfound, evidenced by the fact that at the start of her response, she calls LeBron a “dumb jock”. LeBron, the businessman, actor, philanthropist, and athlete, is worth nearly 1 billion dollars, and is considered unanimously by his peers to be vastly intelligent both on and off the court. Ingraham’s argument is not off to a strong start.

Ingraham then goes on to call LeBron’s comment “barely intelligible”. LeBron’s comment, as written word for word above, contains one grammatical error, substituting “doesn’t” for “don’t”. If Ingraham truly considers this unintelligible, it speaks far more about her intelligence than it does about LeBron’s. But of course, Ingraham understands his comment just fine—it’s just that LeBron is speaking in a dialect which is typically associated with black culture; a dialect which is common, effortlessly understood, and which has zero connection to the speaker’s intellect or purpose. Yet Ingraham demeans it as “unintelligible,” attacking the intellect of anyone who speaks the same way LeBron does, while simultaneously avoiding and undermining his message entirely. At this point, if anyone was not convinced of Ingraham’s implied racism, she eradicates that possibility by going on to say, “why must they run their mouths like that.” “Why must they run their mouths like that,” she spews in disgust, after the video of two black men speaking their personal experience cuts away.

Technically speaking, her usage of the word “they” can refer to either LeBron and Durant directly, athletes in general, people who disagree with her political views, or the most obvious possibility; influential black people. Whether she intended it to be any of the above cannot be proven, as she could clearly defer to the first option—but her tone is clear– and anyone who convinces themselves otherwise is simply part of the problem.

However, even if she was, by chance, speaking about LeBron James and Kevin Durant specifically, there is not a single reason why they shouldn’t “run their mouths like that.” Are they not citizens with a right to free speech? Are they not remarkably influential men with an audience who needs and respects them? Are they not part of a group of people who still experience injustice today? It seems clear to anyone with any sense that they are the exact people who NEED to be running their mouths.

However, since they disagree with Ingraham and her political views, they should apparently “stick to sports” and “shut up and dribble”. Her immediate disregard of LeBron’s comments prove that she never even intended to listen to what he had to say. She refuses to accept any viewpoint other than her own. She is proudly demonstrating her ignorance, and it goes to show that if she is not listening to someone as successful as LeBron, she is certainly not listening to anyone less fortunate than him. These are the people wo need to be listened to more than anybody.

Despite all of this, the foundation of Ingraham’s argument is that she believes celebrities should simply stay out of politics. However, this argument is null and void for a variety of reasons. For one, Fox News routinely interviews celebrities such as Phil Robertson, Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, and other similarly opinioned men about politics of all shapes and sizes. But apparently, as long as they agree with her it’s perfectly okay if they speak up. Secondly, this is nowhere close to the first time an NBA-associated personality has spoken out about the president of the United States. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, two of the most popular coaches of the modern era, have spoken publically against Trump and his policies in a manner far more direct than anything LeBron James said in his latest interview. Yet Ingraham did not throw a fit about Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich. She never threw a fit about their comments because referring to two white men as “they” wouldn’t make the more racist side of the Trump-worshipping portion of her audience pump their hands and yell in agreement at their televisions.

LeBron James is intelligent, influential, successful, and black; and he is using his platform to reach an audience that can make a positive difference in the world. And Ingraham is clearly uncomfortable with this. She is so uncomfortable with this that she devotes an entire segment of her show to creating an argument as to why athletes “who didn’t graduate high school” (even though LeBron did) should stay out of politics. Ingraham is obviously missing one giant fact, though, that undermines her entire point: Donald Trump was never a politician.

Donald Trump spoke about politics as a reality TV star, and became president of the United States. LeBron James spoke about politics as a prominent athlete, and was slandered on television. The disparity is so acute that any denial of race playing a factor is simply a complete disregard of common sense.

Overall, Ingraham’s entire segment was rife with thinly-veiled racism, and will go entirely unpunished by her employers, by her viewers, and by her peers. These are issues which people need to grasp. Race issues need to be addressed, and pretending the issues are absent is a contribution to the issues themselves. LeBron speaking up and being chastised by Ingraham should be motivation to athletes and celebrities of all races, genders, and backgrounds as to why they need to make their voices heard. They must continue to fight for an equality which has not yet been attained. They must keep the voices of the people alive, and act as a microphone for those who are never heard by those who represent them. They must never give up, not until racism stops going unpunished and not until change has been set into motion. They must never “just shut up and dribble”.


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