From The Basement: The struggle between sports fame and first amendment rights

From The Basement: The struggle between sports fame and first amendment rights

From the Basement is a weekly column in which the Hullabaloo Sports team discusses its opinion on contemporary sports issues.

LeBron James is nothing less than a superstar. He has unquestionably been the face of basketball for more than a decade. At this point, he may even be the face of professional sports in the United States. While critics continue to debate whether LeBron or retired Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan should hold the crown, very few people have challenged James’ humanitarian work off the court.

James’ charity, the LeBron James Family Foundation, has put more than $40 million into funding college scholarships for Ohio-area schoolchildren. James also donated $2.5 million to the Muhammad Ali museum and an additional $2.5 million to the Boys and Girls Club of America. In addition, the Cavaliers superstar made a recent $350,000 donation after his All-Star Game victory. His impact on his Cleveland-area community cannot be overstated. James, nevertheless, was the object of criticism last week.

Laura Ingraham, radio host and Fox News contributor, made comments last week in response to a video of James and fellow NBA star Kevin Durant on UNINTERUPPTED, a website co-founded by James. After James said that President Donald Trump “doesn’t give a fuck about the people,” Ingraham, a vocal supporter of Trump, responded by criticizing James for leaving high school early to play in the NBA. This statement was incorrect, as James did graduate before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ingraham added that James should “shut up and dribble”.

The Fox News host attempted to clarify that her comments were not racially charged. She made similar comments toward Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, two white NBA coaches. 

Laura Ingraham believes James’ political opinions are less valid than others’ because of his level of education and his profession. Demographic charts, however, show that Trump’s victory was propelled by people who had only a high school education or less. Would Ingraham attack the political opinions of these individuals on the basis of their education level if the opinions were in support of Trump?

LeBron James is an American citizen. Therefore, his First Amendment rights entitle him to voice his political opinions in whatever peaceful manner he pleases. Of course, Ingraham is entitled to the same right as well. Ingraham chose to use her voice to minimize the voices of others, showing her lack of respect for the good works many of these professional athletes have done.

In 1968, after winning a set of Olympic medals, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stepped to the podium and raised gloved fists to the sky, a Black Power salute. The crowd booed and hissed. The two were stripped of their medals (though both refused to return them) and forced to leave the country where the games had been held. It’s incredibly disheartening that, 50 years later, some people would still have such a violent reaction to an athlete speaking his mind.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Shea is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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