BOSTON – LeBron James has not been the least bit coy about his thoughts on President Trump, which makes James not all that different than, you know, most citizens of this country.
There are those from all walks of life who think he’s done a lousy job while others like the job he’s done thus far.
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Apparently, James’ thoughts on the president should not be expressed, at least that’s the sentiment of Fox commentator Laura Ingraham who believes James should “shut up and dribble” after James and Kevin Durant had some not-so-flattering comments about President Trump.
When made aware of Ingraham’s response to James’ comments, the Celtics' Jaylen Brown didn’t mince words in expressing how he felt on the matter.
“That’s ridiculous,” Brown said of Ingraham’s “shut up and dribble” comment. “That’s the kind of notion that’s been occurring over the last 10, 15 years and in this generation, we’re trying to change that. You got athletes who are politicians, venture capitalists, musicians, rappers, etc., so it’s becoming more of a popular thing to have other interests outside of basketball. I think that’s normal. Just like people, they have day jobs, but they have interests in sports; they’re into investments, they do all these other types of things.”
Indeed, James is just one of the growing number of professional athletes who are voicing their opinions on social concerns more often in what they perceive as the landscape of this country changing...and not for the better.
But in speaking out on what some athletes believe are problems in our nation that they believe are connected with the current president, there is the potential alienation of fans, which could potentially damage a player’s image in the eyes of some, as well as their brand.
Ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested what he believed was increasing social injustice and police brutality by taking a knee while the national anthem played.
Kaepernick’s action set into motion a movement that saw other NFL players take a similar stance.
Still, it has come at a cost for Kaepernick, who was not signed by any NFL team even after a number of teams had multiple injuries at quarterback, which has led to Kaepernick filing a lawsuit against the NFL for alleged collusion.
Seeing how quickly Kaepernick’s playing career stalled, players who voice their support for reform for various social issues run the risk of having a similar outcome to their respective careers.
Brown recalls various basketball camps, in addition to media training sessions, leading up to the 2016 NBA draft, where he was warned about the potential fallout if he took on certain political and social issues.
“They almost teach you to be...not say anything that will get you any backlash or not saying anything out of the norm,” Brown said. “What you’re saying could be true to yourself, but ‘don’t say anything about politics, don’t say anything that is on the line or anything that’s on the fence because you can get backlash for it.’”
Brown added, “As an athlete, if you’re educated on a topic and believe something, I feel like it should be okay to say it.”
There’s a certain responsibility that Brown, 21, believes comes with the platform that he and his fellow NBA players have at their disposal, a position he does not take lightly.
And in his time around other NBA players, he’s found that they too are more thoughtful about issues such as politics and social issues, than they are given credit for.
Part of that involves a long-standing narrative that NBA players and professional athletes in general, are more consumed by their respective sports than real-life issues and concerns that don’t involve sports.
That’s why when it comes to chiming in on social issues and topics of the day, Brown has a pretty simple rule on deciding which issues to speak about.
“The ones you know about,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. If you’re informed on a situation or you feel you’re informed, and your perspective can be beneficiary, say what’s on your mind. I don’t believe in holding your tongue. Especially something that people can directly benefit from, especially young people watching, looking up to you. Who’s to say if you’re a basketball player, you can’t chime in on other subjects, other topics of the day? I will always disagree with that until the day I die.”
Brown came to Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend eager to play basketball obviously, but he also arranged to have some players spend some time around venture capitalists – something he believes can be of benefit to NBA players later in life.
“It’s super-necessary to always have things to not only challenge not only your physical but also your mental as well,” Brown said. “As athletes, we work on our physical part each and every day, but developing the mental side is important as well. So, what I wanted to do for All-Star weekend, was something that was mentally engaging but also help players long term.”
Brown said the gathering this weekend is about “an education before investment,” adding that it’s about, “learning about this field before you go spending money and investing in things that you have no idea what’s going on. It’s better to learn early than late. So, I’m trying to get a lot of these young guys you see here today to come along with me, to put them in a room full of people who are very successful in that field and maybe bridge some of those gaps.”