On sunday night, Lebron James arrived to the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles wearing white Nike sneakers with the words “More Than An Athlete” engraved on the side. This choice of branding his shoe with this message comes in response to recent tension with FOX News anchor Laura Ingraham who told NBA players to “shut up and dribble” in response to an ESPN interview with Lebron and fellow All star Kevin Durant criticizing President Trump. Ingraham condemned the athletes for their political commentary and suggested they should not be involved in political discussion of the United States. James and Durant did not take her comments lightly, calling the comments “racist”. Durant responded saying that even though he plays basketball, he is a “citizen of the United States, so [his] voice is just as loud as hers - or even louder”. During an All Star weekend media session James also voiced his feelings saying he would “definitely not shut up and dribble” and that he wants to talk about “what’s really important”. He added, “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”. Lebron James is not new to making a political statement with his shoes. Back in December he wore shoes with the word “Equality” embroidered in Gold at a game in Washington DC when the Cavs took on the Wizards. His shoes came as a form of protesting Trump's turbulent words and policies of the time. “We’re not going to let one person dictate us, us as Americans, how beautiful and how powerful we are as a people,” he said. “Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn’t matter your race, whatever the case may be.”
This isn’t the first time professional athletes have been criticized for voicing their political opinions. Often times athletes are told to stay in their place and do their job of playing the sport instead of playing a role in political discourse. But athletes could actually have more of an impact on influencing public opinion, especially if they are “the King”. Keeping them out of the political discussion is not only an infringement on their First Amendment rights, but reduces their humanity as critically thinking individuals, not to mention losing individuals who could influence change in society.
So thank you Lebron, you are more than an athlete.