LeBron James should continue to speak out on issues beyond basketball, according to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He added that James “possibly has more impact off the court” through his social activism.
The controversial Popovich, who previously has said ‘We live in a racist country” and has blasted President Donald Trump, spoke Sunday before his Spurs team played James’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I don’t pick and choose what LeBron should talk about any more than any talking heads who try to pick and choose,” Popovich said, adding that the recent confrontation between Fox News host Laura Ingraham – wherein Ingraham told James and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” after slamming Trump – was “an unbelievable show of arrogance.”
“To me, when I heard about that it was just an unbelievable show of arrogance for a talking head to try and tell someone else if they can speak, what they can speak about and when and where to do it,” Popovich said. “It’s just ludicrous, but [also] to not have a feel for who this guy is [is disappointing].”
Popovich noted that despite an ultra-high profile, James hasn’t been immersed in any scandals, calling him “a brilliant example for millions of kids.” He compared James’s impact to that of the Black Panther movie when it came to role models. “How cool is that for kids to see that, to have that superhero? Well, LeBron’s been that for a long time.”
EARLIER: LeBron James spoke after the afternoon NBA all-star game sessions, vowing that he will continue to “talk about what’s really important.”
James made his first comments following Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s “shut up and dribble” comments last week, in which she took James and fellow hoopster Kevin Durant to task for criticizing President Donald Trump. James initially made a social media post as a retort, leaving others to comment on his behalf.
Saturday was a different story. “I will not just shut up and dribble,” James said after All-Star practice. “So, thank you, whatever her name is. … I get to sit up here and talk about what’s really important and how I can help change kids. “It lets me know that everything I’ve been saying is correct for her to have that type of reaction. But 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 likened himself to past outspoken black athletes like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson. “We know it’s bigger than us. It’s not about us,” James said. “I’m going to continue to do what I have to do to play this game that I love to play, but this is bigger than me playing the game of basketball.”
In that vein, James also talked about Marvel’s Black Panther film and its potential to inspire African-American children, and the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He lamented that there have been too many incidents like that without any preventative change.
Kevin Durant, a member of Team LeBron for Sunday’s all-star game (James and Stephen Curry, as the top vote-getters, got to select their conference teammates) also said players should speak out. He previously called Ingraham’s comments “racist.”
“I feel like everybody has a voice, especially with our own platforms, we can use our voices for good,” Durant said. “It’s not just me. I feel like everybody in this room has a voice and it’s getting louder and louder every day, so we’ve got to speak what we believe in, we’ve got to speak our truths, and we’ve got to keep it real out here.” Durant declined to follow-up when asked about his “racist” comments on Ingraham.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver praised his players for speaking out on issues.
“I’m incredibly proud of our players for using the platform they have as players in the NBA and on social media to speak out on issues that are important to them. And I was proud of LeBron and Kevin’s response to the comments that were made about them. I think even when I hear it even related to the one-and-done issue when people say that the one-and-done players shouldn’t be in college because they don’t care about an education I think is incredibly unfair to them.”
EARLIER: Fox News host Laura Ingraham has invited basketball star LeBron James to her show, The Ingraham Angle, to talk about their war of words.
Ingraham started things on Thursday when she told James and fellow hoops star Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” when they criticized President Donald Trump in a video published that day by the Uninterrupted site. Ingraham attacked James on his credentials to comment on politics, since he bypassed college to go directly to the NBA after finishing high school.
“Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids,” she said. “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 a hundred-million dollars a year to bounce a ball.”
James responded with his own hash tag = #wewillnotshutupanddribble – and a retweet of a USA Today story on Ingraham’s comments, complete with a shot of a neon sign at the Uninterrupted offices. His comment was, “I am more than an athlete.”
Other NBA players were more vocal in their support. Durant claimed the Ingraham comments were “racist,” and Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade, a close friend of James, tweeted, “They used to try and hide it. Now the president has given everyone the courage to live their truths.”
Ingraham responded to the comments with a statement issued through Fox News.
“In 2003, I wrote a New York Times best-seller 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. 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. 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.”