LOS ANGELES — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was proud of LeBron James and Kevin Durant for how they each responded to Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham’s assertion that the NBA stars should “shut up and dribble” rather than espouse political opinions such as their recent critiques of President Donald Trump.
“Let me begin by saying I’m incredible proud of our players for using the platform they have.”
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“Let me begin by saying 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,” Silver said during his annual All-Star press conference on Saturday night at Staples Center. “I was proud of LeBron and Kevin’s response to the comments that were made about them.”
In a recent video clip for James’ Uninterrupted media platform, James and Durant offered harsh criticisms of the president. James said that Trump, elected to “the No. 1 job in America, the appointed person, is someone who doesn’t understand the people and really don’t give a f*** about the people.”
Ingraham highlighted the video during Thursday’s episode of her Fox News show, calling James and Durant’s comments “ignorant,” asking of “jocks” like the former NBA MVPs, “Why must they run their mouths like that?” and recommending that they “keep the political commentary to yourself, or, as someone once said, ‘Shut up and dribble.'” Asked about the broadcast on Friday, Durant said he felt Ingraham’s remarks were “racist,” and said, “I just feel bad for her. I feel sorry for her, because she doesn’t understand.” James offered more expanded comments on Saturday, saying he will “definitely not ‘shut up and dribble,'” because he feels compelled to use his platform to “shed a greater light, and a positive light, on the bad aura or the energy that some of the people are trying to give to the people of America and the people of the world.”
Silver said any intimation like the one Ingraham offered — that it’s always unwise to seek political advice from players who “get paid $100 million to bounce a ball,” and that James should stand as a cautionary tale for young people of what can happen when you try to leave high school a year early (which James didn’t; he graduated from St. Vincent St. Mary’s in Akron, Ohio) to play professional basketball — unnecessarily paints talented players in a negative light.
“Just because they have enormous opportunity — in the way maybe Bill Gates did, or Mark Zuckerberg — to create enormous wealth for themselves and their families certainly doesn’t mean they don’t care about an education,” Silver said. “Many of them go on to continue to educate themselves, whether through going back to school in the summer, taking courses, doing things post-playing career. So it frustrates me.
“I should also say it’s not lost on me or anybody in this room that there is an enormous amount of racial tension in this country, enormous amount of social injustice, and I do see a role for this league in addressing those issues,” he added.
Silver also pointed toward the history of NBA players using their voices and platforms to help advocate toward social change.
“Bill Russell happens to be sitting here at this press conference,” Silver said. “[The topic] sort of reminds me of the role that players like Bill Russell have played historically in speaking out on important issues. It’s interesting. Here we are in L.A., and, Bill, you probably remember this, but the first All-Star Game that took place in Los Angeles was in 1963. You were the MVP, and then of course the [Boston] Celtics went on to win a championship that year. But maybe even more importantly, then, in the summer of 1963, you stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech.
“So, to me, there is this direct through-line from players like Bill Russell, here it was roughly 55 years ago, to LeBron and Kevin Durant, speaking out today on issues that are important to them.”
Given the vitality of that through-line, Silver emphasized the importance of the commissioner’s office supporting players in speaking their minds on issues that matter to them.
“This is a legacy of important work that I’ve inherited, that I continue to encourage,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything that’s said at any given moment, but the fact that these players are not just basketball players, they’re multi-dimensional, they care about their communities, and they care about what’s happening in their country. They then care
enough to speak out, and sometimes at great risk to themselves, because it’s not lost on them that there are some people who will disagree with them. […] I’m really proud of them.”
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