Athletes behind the “Shut Up and Dribble” Movement refuse to be silenced

Clara De Leon, in-depth editor

During an ESPN podcast a couple weeks ago, NBA players Lebron James and Kevin Durant voiced their political opinions, offering edgy critiques to president Donald Trump. The two have since received backlash, most notably from Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham who implied they were dumb jocks and famously told them to “shut up and dribble.” Thus, a movement amongst athletes has been crafted, one where those famous for their physicality refuse to silence their mentality.

While this podcast interview sparked controversy, it’s not Lebron’s first time publicly insulting president Trump. In September of 2017, he tweeted the POTUS account, “U bum…Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up.” The straightforward disrespect is what’s upsetting people who believe political disagreements should be handled more maturely.

“I think we have lost a sense of decency,” physics teacher Stephanie Schrader said. “I wish everyone could discuss their opinions without relying on demeaning anyone or being disrespectful.”

Lebron keeps tiptoeing on the fine line between opinion and slander, which is what causes so much controversy. Still, disagreement over expression of opinion, in moderation, shouldn’t result in excessive backlash.

“James has been using his platform to express his opinion on current events for a long time,” senior Tim Antonetti said. “The only people discrediting his opinions are people who have opinions of the opposite extreme.”

But Lebron’s words aren’t just what bothered people like Laura Ingraham, it’s the fact it was him saying it. Some argue his lack of formal education negatively alters his ability to craft an educated opinion. However, it doesn’t seem clear how the length of formal education measures political knowledge.

I think that there are a lot of athletes who are really smart people,”Antonetti said. “If someone went to college for chemical engineering or something, they probably wouldn’t be any more educated on political issues and current events than most athletes are.”

People usually base their political biases on life experiences, not what they learn in school. Otherwise, all students would have uniform opinions. Still,  people patronize Lebron and other athletes when they speak up for what they believe in.

James and company have been exposed to many unusual situations in their career, whether it be through local philanthropy or Olympic international travel. They have been exposed to point-of-views most people haven’t. Instead of pushing athlete’s thoughts to the side, society should at least hear them out, they might bring up new ideas to the table, whether we agree with them or not.

“Those who chose to put themselves in the spotlight have to be ready to accept criticism-not being a political figure is no excuse to be incompetent if you choose to be outspoken in the public eye,” junior Danny Pocklington said. “It is also the duty of the public to recognize who is a credible source for political commentary and who isn’t.”

Just last week, the media was exposed to the power of athletes to those willing to listen. Parkland shooting victim Joaquin Oliver was buried in Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s jersey. After hearing about this, Wade responded, “It’s WAY bigger than basketball. We are the voices for the  people that don’t get to be heard.”

While Laura Ingraham belittles jocks into athlete-only personas, athletes are clearly leaving an emotional mark on their fans, so there’s no reason as to why they shouldn’t take advantage of their large audience and spread awareness or at least spark a conversation about an issue.

Yes, Laura Ingraham’s treatment isn’t exclusive to athletes; she’s told Jimmy Kimmel to “shut up and make us laugh,” and Robert De Niro to “shut up and act.” But, she is still attempting to silence the opinions of those that don’t agree with her; we must continue to remember that no one’s potential opinion should be valued over others’.

I do not think that the public should hold a celebrities opinion to be higher than that of anyone else,” Schrader said.

It’s important we hear out the opinion of as many different types of voices as possible. That’s why it’s so vital we listen to people like Lebron, even if we don’t agree. When people continue to publicly discredit others’ valid thoughts, it prevents expression of opinion from people who don’t believe what they have to say is valuable.

“If you feel something is unjust, it is very important to speak out about it, but be prepared to face controversy,” Pocklington said. “Be open to having an open-minded discussion about the issue.”