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Finneran: When LeBron Speaks..

Friday, February 23, 2018


LeBron James

Don’t mess with Lebron.

And don’t mess with the Constitution.

Lebron James, an American citizen, is as free to speak his mind as anyone else in America. His right to do so is not negated by the sensitivities of President Trump or Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan. Nor is his right to do so foregone by the fact that he is a professional basketball player. If Tom Brady can offer opinions, then so can Lebron James. Neither one of them needs permission from anyone else. Let’s call it the First Amendment effect. It’s a glorious American freedom, to be enjoyed by all.

Perhaps you missed the controversy which erupted between Laura Ingraham, a talk radio host, and Lebron James, the world’s best basketball player. It seems that James and Kevin Durant, a fellow professional basketball player, offered some critical remarks as well as their embarrassment about Donald Trump’s stewardship of the country.

Beyond placing themselves squarely in the middle of half the American population, their remarks were no more critical of President Trump than those which every sentient American reads or hears every single day. The country is divided today in its opinions of the President.............as it was divided in its opinions of Messrs. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon et. al. You get the point. The country has always been divided in its opinions of our Presidents. It’s no big deal. It’s life. And trust me, President Trump already knows that the country is divided over him. He also knows that it goes with the territory.

Laura Ingraham is a smart, talented radio host. Yet here she is mistaken. She pounced on Lebron’s critique of the President as being beyond his skill set and she uttered the now infamous phrase “shut up and dribble”. It’s a risible attempt at ratings and a more risible attempt to tell an American citizen to know his place.

The fact that Ms. Ingraham is white and Mr. James is black adds to the social spice of the exchange. I suspect that Ms. Ingraham would quickly agree that our First Amendment freedoms are not contingent upon skin color, occupation, or receipt of an Ivy League degree. A high school student enjoys the same freedom to vent as a Nobel Prize winner. And no one else gets to ration that right or to curb that freedom to speak, or to write, or to opine.

Indeed, I believe that Ms. Ingraham has frequently vented about campus terrorists and cowardly administrators who routinely bully and shut down politically conservative speakers on too many college campuses. That she has done so in the service of the First Amendment is to her credit. Too many Americans cringe at “controversial” speech rather than listening and considering such speech. Of course, in today’s hyper politically correct environment any words beyond “good morning” are deemed offensive. Soon enough, even “good morning” will be labeled as intrusive deism. And the idiot professor who initiates the charge of deism will get a tenured position from which he or she can bully and brainwash the weak sheep of American campuses for years to come.

Ms. Ingraham has responded cleverly to the barrage of criticism hurled at her critique of Lebron’s remarks. She asks a racially loaded question and she simultaneously pursues an obvious ratings bonanza. How utterly American.

The racially loaded question was a simple substitution of principals where she posed the hypothetical question of two white professional basketball players expressing their embarrassment about President Obama’s stewardship of the nation and the likely league and public response to such an incident. Ms. Ingraham states that said white players would be drummed out of the league. Silly old me, I disagree. Most folks would assess it as a simple opinion, much like Lebron’s criticism of President Trump is seen as just an opinion. We’re all free to agree, to disagree, or to simply ignore others’ opinions.

As for the ratings bonanza maneuver, Ms. Ingraham has invited Lebron to come on her show. I hope that Lebron says “yes”. He’s an intelligent accomplished citizen who has enjoyed enormous and hard-earned success. And, as a white guy, I’d listen closely to his thoughts and opinions about the realities of growing up black in America as well as his critique of Presidents Trump and Obama. I’d listen closely to Ms. Ingraham as well. She’s as much a professional as Lebron and their exchanges might actually enlighten parts of the public realm.

Consider it a real-life example of the beauty of the First Amendment.

You listen, and you learn.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio


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