LOS ANGELES — When LeBron James was first made aware of Laura Ingraham’s comments on Fox News earlier this week — including telling James and fellow NBA star Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” — he laughed. But that was before he saw the video, and before the meaning behind those comments sank in.
“It lets me know that everything I’ve been saying is correct, for her to have that type of reaction,” James said Saturday during a wide-ranging interview at the Los Angeles Convention Center that covered Ingraham’s comments, the pride he feels in the “Black Panther” movie, with a primarily black cast, and gun control following the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting this week.
“But we will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out, and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”
James pointed out that Ingraham was incorrect for saying that he’d graduated from high school “a year early,” as he completed high school before entering the NBA. (Ingraham actually said, “This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA.” James did consider petitioning to leave high school for the NBA after his junior year.)
“I also wish she would have did a little bit more fact-checking, because I actually did finish high school and didn’t leave early,” James said. “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 think I’ve defeated the odds, and 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 will not just shut up and dribble because I mean too much to my two boys here, their best friend right here, my daughter who is at home, my wife, my family and all these other kids that look up to me for inspiration and trying to find a way out, and find some leeway on how they can become as great as they can be and how those dreams can become reality.”
Ingraham’s comments from her show Thursday night caught fire on social media as the clip of her taking James and Durant to task for comments they made during an in-depth conversation with ESPN’s Cari Champion for James’s media company, “Uninterrupted.”
“Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately, a lot of kids — and some adults — take these ignorant comments seriously,” Ingraham said on her show Thursday night. “And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball.”
James was later asked if he thought her comments were racist. And while he didn’t answer directly either way, he did point to Fox News’ track record on the subject of race.
“I mean, listen, race is a part of our country, we know that,” he said. “I think the engine that she sits behind doesn’t have a great rap sheet when it comes to race in our country, and things of that nature. There’s been many people that’s not African American that spoke upon the same issues I spoke upon, and they didn’t say anything to them. You can look at it as being racist or you can look at it as saying racial tension, which we already know that. That goes without saying. I don’t think we’re sitting here saying, ‘Oh, she’s racist.’ Or, ‘That’s racial tension. I’m surprised.’
“We know what’s going on, and I’m just trying to shed a greater light and a positive light on the bad aura or the energy that some of the people are trying to give to the people of America and to the world. I’m not the negative side. Me having this platform, I’m just trying to shed a positive light on what I feel like is right. Am I always right? Can I have everybody follow me? I don’t think so. But I feel what’s right. I’m looking at my boys right here, teaching them what’s right and what’s wrong, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
James’s comments at the Los Angeles Convention Center came after he addressed Ingraham through social media Friday.
James posted an image on Instagram of a neon sign at the Uninterrupted’s Los Angeles office that read, “I am more than an athlete,” and captioned his post with #wewillnotshutupanddribble. On Twitter, James wrote “#wewillnotshutupanddribble” as he retweeted a photo of the sign.
Ingraham later tweeted: “Hey King, Come play on my Court next week. You’re invited on the show anytime.”
Durant also responded to Ingraham’s initial “shut up and dribble” remarks on Friday, calling the host’s comments racist.
“Ignorance is something I try to ignore,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “That was definitely an ignorant comment. I do play basketball, but I am a civilian and I am a citizen of the United States, so my voice is just as loud as hers, I think — or even louder. I can’t focus on that. I think we’re doing some good things out here, using our platform.
“I kind of feel sorry for her, because she’s not looking through the lens of being free and what that’s about. It feels bad that she doesn’t know what we came from, or who we are personally. She might actually enjoy being around us, and might actually feel inspired by being around not just me or LeBron but guys in our position, anybody of another color who has risen up and done something positive in life.”
James tied his response Saturday to Ingraham’s comments to the pride he feels in Marvel’s new “Black Panther” movie, which has a largely black cast.
“The reason [I’m proud of] that movie is as a kid the only people that you felt like could be superheroes were athletes and musicians,” he said. “Because I was growing up there were no superheroes like Batman or Superman or Spiderman or Flash or Aquaman that were African American. I never thought I could be those people. I never thought I could get to Michael Jordan, as well, but I felt like I could be a musician, I felt like I could be an athlete. And for this movie to come out right now, in this day and age, and I can sit and talk about this, it’s the perfect way. And I’m so proud of the actors and the production and everybody that had to do [with it]. I know it wasn’t all African Americans that actually put together the production and the people behind the scenes, but I’m so proud to be able to sit here and say I’m an African-American during Black Panther, during our social times right now where we’re so fragile.”
James also touched on this week’s high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“We’ve seen these schools and these tragedies happen in America and there’s been no change to gun control,” James said. “I don’t have the answer to this, so let’s just sit here and we’re having a roundtable right now because I don’t have the answers to it. But we have to do something about it … We have a kid who was legally not able to go get a beer at a bar, but could go buy a AR-14, or AR-15? It doesn’t make sense. And I’m not saying it should be legal for him to go buy a beer, but I’m saying how is it possible that we can have minors to go buy a gun? I don’t have the answer to it.”
James also spoke on Saturday about not minding being a “symbol” for others, if it was for the “greater good.”
“I don’t mind being a symbol,” James said. “I don’t sit up here trying to get a reward. I don’t think Muhammad Ali sat up here trying to get a reward. I don’t think Jim Brown or Bill Russell or Jackie Robinson and the list goes on and on — I don’t think they tried to sit up here and get rewarded for it. It’s bigger than us. It’s not about us.”
Earlier on Friday, James was paying no mind to Ingraham’s comments, basking in a sunny pool and posting to his Instagram story with the caption: “Smiling through it all! Can’t believe this is my life.”
In the interview that sparked Ingraham’s response, James and Durant took aim at President Trump, with James saying that the current president is “someone who doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a f— about the people.”
Durant also expressed his opinions on the matter: “You need to empower people, you need to encourage people, and that’s what builds a great team. And I feel like our team, as a country, is not run by a great coach.”
After Ingraham’s comments caused a stir Friday, she issued a statement, saying the “shut up and dribble” phrase was a riff off her book she wrote in 2003 titled, “Shut Up & Sing,” and she has used a “variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics.”
“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,” she said in the statement. “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.”
Other athletes have addressed Ingraham’s comments directed at James and Durant, including James’s former teammate and close friend, Dwyane Wade.
“They use to try and hide it,” Wade wrote in his tweet. “Now the president has given everyone the courage to live their truths.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed pride in James and Durant during his All-Star Weekend news conference.
On Saturday, Washington Wizards star John Wall told The Post’s Candace Buckner that, “We have a right to be, and speak on, anything we want to,” in light on Ingraham’s comments.
“We’re more than athletes,” Wall continued. “It’s like they always say, we’re more than just playing basketball. When our career is over, when we retire and the basketball stops bouncing, we still have the find something else to do. Whether you want to be a general manager, a doctor, a businessman, whatever, you have to believe on everything you stand on. We’re more than athletes and the stuff that’s going on in our society and in this world, we have to speak on it. I think we have the right to say whatever we want.”
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