Athletes and Activism: Stop Telling Athletes To Stick To Their Sport

What if LeBron James had just shut up and dribbled? 

There would be no LeBron James Family Foundation.

The $1 million spent per year on initiatives including programs that aid children in elementary school and help students, some future athletes, get closer to achieving their goals of higher education would not exist. 

There would be no iconic photo of Miami Heat players all wearing hoodies, with their heads bowed, their hands stuffed into their pockets in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin.

LeBron James is more than high energy dunks and NBA records. He is a Black man from Akron, Ohio who goes through the vile and harmful ignorance and hate that this country was founded on.

I wasn't surprised when I heard Fox News' Laura Ingraham jump to Trump's defense Thursday night after LeBron James and fellow NBA star Kevin Durant spoke about the president and other social issues in a podcast with ESPN's Cari Champion on UNINTERRUPTED's  Rolling With The Champions.

The number one job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f*** about the people. When I was growing up, there was like three jobs that you looked to for inspiration or you felt like these were the people who could give me light. It was the president of the United States, it was whoever was the best in sports and then it was, like, whoever was the greatest musician at the time. You never thought you could be them, but you could grab inspiration from them. If there was a neighborhood African American cop, and he was cool as hell coming around, I felt like I could be him. I never felt like I could be the president of the United States, but I grabbed inspiration from that. At this time right now, with the president of the United States, it’s at a bad time, and while we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way.
— LeBron James, 2018

Ingraham, weighed in.

Like I said, I'm not surprised. I'm just tired. I'm tired of people telling athletes, especially athletes of color to just stick to sports, or as Ingraham so elegantly put it, "shut up and dribble."

Ingraham went on to downplayed James' intelligence because he went to play in the NBA straight out of high school.

I'm not going to go too much into how she presented her opinions. Instead, I'm going to focus on the blaring misconception that often plagues high profile people of color.

It's believed by many that once a Black person earns some money and becomes influential they no longer feel the burn of racism. 

Being a Black person with status doesn't make you numb to the experience. LeBron James still understands what it means to be a Black man in America because he lives it every single day.

Last year, someone spray-painted a racial slur on the front gate of LeBron James’ LA home on the eve of the NBA Finals. 

No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is — it’s tough,” James said. “And we got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.
— LeBron James, 2017

James, arguably one of the greatest players in NBA history, is no stranger to addressing social and political issues and had this to say in response to Ingraham's ignorance.

Athletes have a platform to inspire, influence and change the lives of so many people. With that large amount of influence, people tend to forget that athletes are people too. They're living in the same country run by the same administration as we are. They have every right to voice their opinions and talk about their experiences just as I do as a writer. 

"But Maya, we don't want politics in our sports."

Sorry to burst your bubble but sports bathes in politics. 

Politics kept Blacks and whites from playing on the same field.

Politics stripped Muhammad Ali of his Heavyweight title.

Politics ostracized Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos after they raised their fists during the national anthem.

Politics is the national anthem being played before the start of every sporting event.

Politics is what has kept former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of a job after he took a knee protesting the injustice and inequalities Black people face day in and day out in this country.

Politics is Tom Brady being able to have his "Make America Great Again" hat on full display in his locker. (But Brady wasn't reprimanded by the league for showing where he stands politically. Hmmm, I wonder why.)

Politics and sports intersect and we can't sit here and act like they don't have a long history together. 

America has exploited Black athletes for talent. Despite the, millions of tickets sold, countless world records set, hundreds of international games won while representing the United States, Black American athletes have not been granted a pass to racial bias. 

The bravery of LeBron James' will inspire others to publicly join the movement to improve the experiences of Black Americans. So LeBron, we stand with you. Keep dribbling and keep dropping knowledge. #wewillnotshutupanddribble