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Free speech extends to the hardwood


We’ve learned in history how other countries, such as the Soviet Union, severely punished its political and religious dissenters. In the Soviet Union this was done through the Gulag forced labor camps. For Soviet citizens it was either be humble or experience agony. Luckily things are different in America. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction. “This is a free country” is a commonly heard phrase across the nation. Though everyone must follow the law, people have the right to act on their own will. Other than facing the consequences and repercussions from potentially-harmful threats, everyone has a right to their own opinion, belief or idea. Whether it be through correctness or vulgarity.

One of the strongest instigators of opinion expression are politics. The 2016 presidential election sparked callous and polarizing viewpoints regarding policy, party loyalty and candidacy distastment. Family and friends went through trials and tribulations with one another for their viewpoints. As a result, some relationships ended. But every so often an opinion does not go without criticism, especially if the culprit is well-known.

Lebron James, one of the most beloved NBA stars of our time, released both a video and a tweet speaking out against the Trump administration. For lack of a better term, Lebron stated that Trump does not care about the people, is disconnected, and alerts the American people that this [Trump] is not the way. He also stated how it is laughable and unsurprising when Trump makes one of his outrageous comments. This is not the first athlete to speak out against the Trump administration, only a few months ago was the administration’s kneeling feud the NFL and Stephen Curry’s invitation withdrawal from the White House. Hollywood too has a hostile relationship with Trump expressed in countless twitter rants and feuds that have become an ongoing pattern. However, James’ prominence and popularity did not allow him to escape criticism from Fox News anchor, Laura Ingraham.    

Devoting a whole segment, Ingraham told Lebron to “shut up and dribble.” She went on to say that James did not have the credentials to comment on politics or criticize Trump.  But since the past election, the right has been saying how the left will criticize and discredit any opposing views. The right has held  it was wrong to categorize Trump supporters as deplorable and that the new administration deserves respect. This segment did not intimidate James and he fired back, saying he will not “shut up and dribble.”  James now plans to further enact his passion for social justice and equality. Fellow NBA players and coaches have defended James’ stance.

Would Ingraham have had the same response if James held the opposite stance and believed Trump was a successful businessman who had the correct Presidential courage and integrity to run the country? Or If he commented on Trump’s eloquence on The Apprentice or his appreciation of his infamous term “You’re Fired!”? She would probably comment on James’ intelligence and awareness and how there is more to him than dribbling.

What Ingraham fails to realize is that you do not have to be Senator Marco Rubio or her co-anchor Sean Hannity to editorialize politics and politicians. James does not need a masters degree from Harvard or working on a presidential campaign to express a political opinion, no one does. James is not the first nor will be the last prominent figure to express apprehension towards Donald Trump. As long as he does not make perilous comments, James can express and view the president in any way he chooses. It is his right.

No one should be put in a box. Basketball is not the only aspect of Lebron James’ life nor is it all he cares about. He acknowledges how important he is to society and wants to be an active voice. Being told to stay silent and continue playing your sport is saying your opinion does not matter. It is a feeble response. Ingraham was trying to undermine James’ legitimacy but fortunately she did not succeed. James, the other players and coaches of the NBA will not lower their voices. They will continue to be heard. This should give everyone the courage to stand up for what they believe in and not let anyone shut them up.

Aaron Betancourt can be reached at

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