Good Luck Getting Pro Athletes To ‘Shut Up And Dribble’

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Scott Greer Contributor
Font Size:

Fox News host Laura Ingraham telling NBA star LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” set off another row in America’s never-ending culture war.

Last Thursday, Ingraham took issue with James constantly attacking President Trump, prompting her to say, “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball. Oh, and LeBron and Kevin [Durant], you’re great players but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach. So keep the political commentary to yourself or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”

Those comments drew intense backlash from several professional athletes, celebrities and journalists. The overwhelming response to Ingraham was that she engaged in racist dog-whistling against James. (RELATED: ESPN Fully Embraces Social Justice Talking Points Over LeBron)

The Cleveland Cavaliers phenom himself responded to the furor with a remarkably un-humble message. “We will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in,” James told reporters on Saturday.

There has been no time in history when celebrities have been so eager to share their thoughts on politics than the Trump era. Pretty much every actor, writer and sports star is asked about the president, with the vast majority of respondents having a very negative view of him.

A lot of people aren’t happy with this development. They would prefer pro athletes and actors stick to what they’re good at and stay clear of politics. But that’s a hope unlikely to be fulfilled.

While the media was bashing Ingraham for her thoughts on LeBron, journalists were also championing mediocre Olympic skater Adam Rippon. Rippon has become a star of the Olympics not because of his talent or the medals he’s won, but because he jumped at every opportunity to attack Vice President Mike Pence.

The skater refused to meet with Pence and has publicly expressed his disgust for the nation’s leading representative at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Pence, for his part, did everything possible to alleviate Rippon’s grievances against him and has insisted he is rooting for him in the games — to no avail.

But all the attention helped Rippon become one of the most well-known Olympians this year even though he is certainly not one of the best athletes for Team USA. His strongly anti-Pence stance and openly gay identity made him the perfect star for the establishment media and even netted him an offer to do color commentary for NBC. (He turned that offer down.)

Rippon’s case demonstrates how the media rewards liberal political advocacy on the part of athletes and celebrities. The figure skater would hardly be known if he hadn’t bashed Pence multiple times. Now he’s an “icon.”

There’s an added incentive for entertainers to speak out on politics — it comes from a left-wing perspective — when it’s beneficial to their brand. They’ll earn instant adoration from journalists and be shielded from conservative criticism by the fact that they are “just entertainers.”

While Ingraham may have not chosen the best line of attack against LeBron, the “shut up and dribble” sentiment is a popular theme among Americans. The NFL has suffered a serious audience decline over the last two years due to the national anthem protests. Polls show that two-thirds of Americans want athletes to keep politics off the field, yet athletes are doing everything possible to get more involved in politics. (RELATED: Survey: Americans Want Pro Athletes To Keep Politics Off The Field)

Americans turn to sports to escape from the drudgery of daily life and most don’t want to be lectured about divisive political issues when they’re trying to enjoy the game.

The intrusion of social justice into sports is another sign of how everything is politicized in the age of Trump. Awards shows, corporate advertising and even film ratings are politicized in the era we live in. Sports are proving less of an oasis from this development but an affirmation of it.

And the players won’t shut up and dribble. They’re going to continue calling Trump a racist, police violent bigots and telling you to check your white privilege.

It would be one thing if there were an equal number of vocally conservative or pro-Trump athletes to counter the left-wing ones, but there aren’t. The same weekend the media was rushing to defend LeBron James’ right to speak his mind, criticism was mounting against a handful of New York Mets players who merely took a picture with Donald Trump Jr.

Conservatives are told to shut up and dribble, while liberal athletes are encouraged to lecture about politics every chance they get. If LeBron had praised Trump, he would have to apologize for his statements and insist he would remain silent on politics going forward.

Thankfully, the fans can show their opposition to this slanted politicization by no longer buying tickets and merchandise, a message the NFL has heard loud and clear. Ingraham’s “controversial” comments aren’t so controversial to the majority of Americans who wants politics left out of sports.

Follow Scott on Twitter and buy his new book, “No Campus for White Men.