Basketball

I won’t ‘shut up and scribble’: Why it’s OK for sports, politics to mix

Recently, sports and politics clashed when Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham went after LeBron James, 23, and Kevin Durant, left, after they voiced anti-President Donald Trump sentiments. She said, among other things, “shut up and dribble.”
Recently, sports and politics clashed when Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham went after LeBron James, 23, and Kevin Durant, left, after they voiced anti-President Donald Trump sentiments. She said, among other things, “shut up and dribble.” AP

I always dreamed I’d one day be able to say this: I have something in common with the best basketball players in the world.

No, it’s not as if my skills on the court have magically reached the level of megastars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant. And no, it’s not as if we have much else in common.

But there’s one thing: We’ve been told to stick to sports and leave politics to others.

Recently, sports and politics clashed when Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham went after James and Durant after they voiced anti-President Donald Trump sentiments. She said, among other things, “shut up and dribble.”

In my case, whenever I write a column that contains any kind of political references – which are mostly satire and poking fun at the ridiculousness of the times we’re living – I often receive emails or voicemails accusing me of supporting one party or the other and telling me to just stick to sports.

If only life were so simple.

This may surprise some of you – especially if you’ve spent much time in traffic or walking around a Walmart – but human beings are dynamic creatures. We aren’t one dimensional and we are capable of having a dog in multiple fights.

In fact, Ingraham herself shockingly has interests other than politics, and one is sports. You don’t say! A report by the Washington Post chronicled a series of Ingraham tweets in which she was commenting on sports.

As a right-wing commentator, should she stick to being the president’s cheerleader while LeBron and KD focus solely to sports? Absolutely not.

Ingraham mug
Conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham J. Scott Applewhite AP

There’s quite a double standard here. And while James and Durant certainly don’t appear to be Trump supporters – with Bron saying the president “don’t give a [expletive] about the people” and KD saying the country is not run “by a great coach” – what was the point in her going after them?

I have often tuned in to her show and share some views with her. While I try my hardest not to adhere to one party’s political stances, I will address one that she and I have in common, one that conservatives often are the first to support: belief in the First Amendment.

However, the freedom of speech part applies to all, not just those who deem themselves knowledgeable enough to comment on certain subjects – you know, such as politics. Therefore, Ingraham’s attack on a pair of basketball players for disagreeing with her contradicts one of the most important fabrics conservatives – and countless others – stand for.

In her response to the backlash for her “shut up and dribble” comments – which some, including Durant believed to be racist – Ingraham played right into the narrative by bringing a pair of black commentators on to agree with her and have her back. OK, maybe it was coincidental that they were black, but she then further made it about race.

After condemning James for using an expletive and noting that he and Durant were “barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical,” she jumped off the cliff and landed in no man’s land.

“If you’re gonna talk like that, you’re gonna act like that and you talk like that about the president of the United States … I’ll tell you something, if you’re a white NBA player and you said that stuff that he said about Obama, you’d never play again.”

Umm, what? Now we’re really getting into the weeds here.

In fact, one of the other commentators said we should “look at them as entertainers and nothing more.” Here we go again.

Ingraham later went on to say, “If you want to be a political pundit, you’re coming on my court,” essentially saying politics is her area of expertise, not theirs. Yet, a few days later there she was, inviting James to come on her show. If he has no clue what he’s talking about, why is she now so anxious to talk to him?

And there could be another problem: Will she be able to understand him? He obviously doesn’t use proper grammar like the rest of us, right Laura? Just stop.

Personally, I didn’t take her original comments as racist. She explained later that she had used the “shut up and …” phrase many times over the years, playing off the title of a book she wrote years ago, “Shut Up & Sing.” Fine, I have no problem with that, unless there’s some racial undertone I’m missing (and if so, my bad).

The problem to me was all about her missing the point on one of the most important characteristics that makes our Republic like no other: We have the right to disagree.

I’m sure there will be some of you who will once again call or write to me saying that I should stick to sports, and that’s the problem. Not one person has all answers, and that’s OK. If you disagree with me, I’m cool with that.

We need to stop attacking each other. It’s pointless and gets us nowhere. How about respectfully disagreeing?

I hope that’s not too much to ask.

Nonetheless, I’m going to continue to write. I refuse to “shut up and scribble.”

Not in this country.

David Wetzel: 843-626-0295, @MYBSports

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