LOS ANGELES — Inasmuch as the All-Stars at the league’s premier event wanted to talk basketball, they were steered away from the game and to their ability to speak on social issues after the controversial comments from Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who recently suggested Kevin Durant and LeBron James were ill-equipped to talk about anything but basketball.
Ingraham admonished Durant and James, who criticized President Trump in a recent video on the Uninterrupted website, to just “shut up and dribble.”
She inaccurately criticized James for leaving high school “a year early’’ to enter the NBA. James actually graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary Academy in 2003 and then entered the NBA Draft.
“I actually laughed first when I first saw the reports,” James said during media availability Saturday. “Then I watched the video . . . First of all, I had no idea who she was or what she does. She won in that case because now I know who she is. For her to go up there and say what she said, first of all, I would have had a little more respect for her if she actually wrote those words. She probably said it right off the teleprompter, but that’s OK.
“We’re back to everything I’ve been talking about over the last few years. It lets me know that everything I’ve been saying has been correct, for her to have that type of reaction.”
In a statement Friday, Ingraham said her remarks were not racist.
James has been the foremost NBA player to address social issues and players such as Durant, now a vested and mature NBA veteran, has followed his lead.
“But we will definitely not shut up and dribble,” James said. “I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I meant too much to so many kids who feel like they don’t have a way out and need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.
“Also, I wish she would have done a little more fact-checking, because I actually did finish high school and didn’t leave early. I graduated high school. You know, to be an African-American kid and grow up in the inner city with a single parent, mother, and not being financially stable and to make it where I’ve made it today, I think I’ve defeated the odds. I want every kid to know that. And I want everybody to know that the youth, they can do it as well.
“That’s why I would not just shut up and dribble, because I mean too much to my two boys here, their best friend right here, my daughter that’s at home, my wife, my family and all these other kids that look up to me for inspiration who are trying to find a way out, finding some leeway on how they can become as great as they can be and how those dreams can become a reality. She did the best thing to help me create more awareness. So I appreciate her for giving me even more awareness.”
Said Durant: “I feel like everybody has a voice, and especially with our own platforms we can use our voices for good. So it’s not just me. I feel like everybody in this room has a voice, and it’s getting louder and louder every day. So we’ve got to speak what we believe in. We’ve got to speak our truths and got to keep it real out here, because there’s a lot of fake [expletive] going on.”
Ingraham released a statement Friday in which she said she did not have a racial intent in her remarks.
“In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called ‘Shut Up & Sing,’ in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks & Barbra Streisand who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics,” she said in the statement.
“I’ve told Robert DeNiro to ‘Shut Up & Act,’ Jimmy Kimmel to ‘Shut Up & Make Us Laugh,’ and just this week told the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to ‘Shut up & Coach.’ If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they’re called out for insulting politicians. There was no racial intent in my remarks - false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism.”