Fox News host Laura Ingraham blasted NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant on Thursday for criticizing President Trump and engaging in political discourse, claiming that James needed to “shut up and dribble.”
“Must they run their mouth like that?” Ingraham asked, calling James “barely intelligible.”
“A lot of kids, and some adults, take these ignorant comments seriously,” she continued. “Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids: this is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.”
LeBron, of course, is well respected for his logistical prowess and sharp memory. In 2014, ESPN senior writer Brian Windhorst even suggested that James had some version of an “eidetic memory,” in a column titled “Total Recall: LeBron’s mighty mind.”
Ingraham had played a clip earlier in the segment of James and Durant being interviewed back in January for UNINTERRUPTED, the multimedia platform James co-founded in 2015. Speaking with ESPN anchor Cari Champion, James lamented the current political atmosphere and noted the responsibility athletes had to act as leaders where the president had failed.
“The number one job in America, the appointed person, is someone who doesn’t understand the people and really doesn’t give a fuck about the people,” he said. “…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 — this is not the way.”
Durant added, “I learned a lot of life skills from playing basketball. You need to empower people, you need to encourage people. And that’s what builds a great team. And I feel like our team as a country is not run by a great coach.”
During Thursday night’s segment, Ingraham lashed out at that suggestion.
“LeBron and Kevin, you’re great players, but but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach,” she said. “So, keep the political commentary to yourself, or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”
Putting aside the fact that the First Amendment allows both LeBron and Durant the freedom to speak out against the president or weigh in on politics however they’d like, they’re hardly the first public figures in the sports world to come out against Trump over the his racist rhetoric and discriminatory policies in recent days. On Thursday, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who is white, criticized the government for refusing to discuss gun control in the wake of mass shootings like the one that took place at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, leaving 17 people dead.
“Nothing has been done,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, in a movie theater. It’s not enough apparently to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country, to actually do anything and that’s demoralizing.”
Ingraham, a staunch gun rights advocate, was notably silent about Kerr’s comments.
Ingraham has also previously praised former Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach Bobby Knight, who openly endorsed then-candidate Trump at a rally in April 2016. At the time, Ingraham claimed Knight had “rejected political correctness” and praised his endorsement speech — during which he swore several times from the podium — as “bigger than [the endorsement from] Mike Pence.”
Knight is also white.
During the UNINTERRUPTED segment, James also discussed the current political and racial tensions plaguing the country and the need for good leadership to help overcome it. He referred back to an incident from May 2017 in which someone had spray-painted the n-word on the front gate of his home in Los Angeles, California. At the time, police had investigated the incident as a hate crime.
“I’m a Black man with a bunch of money and a crib in Brentwood, and having the word ‘n—–‘ spray painted over my gate… that lets you know I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “No matter how far you come, there are always people who want to let you know that you are still beneath them. You either cave in to that notion or you say, you know what, I’m going to paint over this gate and make it taller.”
Referring to the president, who has made racist comments himself, and who called white supremacists “very fine people” in the wake of a deadly rally in Charlottesville last summer, James added, “It’s not even a surprise when he says something. It’s, like, laughable. It’s laughable and it’s scary. …I shouldn’t be numb to your behavior.”
On Thursday night, Ingraham mocked James for his concerns.
“I’m numb to this commentary,” she said.
Ingraham has mocked James for his political stances before: during a segment on her radio show last September, Ingraham blasted a clip of the NBA star saying, “No matter if you voted for [Trump] or not, you may have made a mistake and that’s OK. If you voted for him, it’s OK. …[But] I’m trying to make a difference. And can we sit up here and say that I can look myself in the mirror and say that I want the best for the American people?”
The radio host quipped, “LeBron James, who immodestly calls himself King LeBron, King LeBron has to instruct us about really what it is to teach young people. …God, he’s so ignorant.”
Ingraham was previously considered for the role of White House press secretary, before the job eventually went to Sean Spicer.
UPDATE: In a statement over the weekend, Ingraham claimed that there was “no racial intent” in her remarks about James:
“In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called ‘Shut Up & Sing,’ in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks & Barbra Streisand who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics,” Ingraham said. “I’ve told Robert DeNiro to ‘Shut Up & Act,’ Jimmy Kimmel to ‘Shut Up & Make Us Laugh,’ and just this week told the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to ‘Shut up & Coach.’ If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they’re called out for insulting politicians.”
She continued, “There was no racial intent in my remarks – false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism. Additionally, we stated on my show that these comments came from an ESPN podcast, which was not the case – the content was unaffiliated with ESPN.”