A Complete Breakdown of Laura Ingraham's "Shut Up & Dribble" Rant
I really don't like LeBron James. Everything from the way he plays, to the way he complains to the referees, to how he creates an ongoing singularity of drama to which all nearby are inevitably drawn – it all bothers me. Various reports over the last six months have pointed to the possibility of him joining my beloved Lakers this upcoming summer, and I might well have to renounce my Lakers fandom if he does don number 23 outlined in gold. All these things that I hate about him are linked by one thing: sports. I can root against him for every possession he plays, I can disagree with how he approaches the game and his relationships, but that's all separate from the person he is and what he has to say.
And that's a lesson that talk show host Laura Ingraham, the latest in the revolving door of Fox News blondes, has yet to learn. This past week, on her show The Ingraham Angle (which has way too many syllables, a title card made by a high-schooler from the 90s, and is an anagram for A Ghana Gremlin), Laura ripped LeBron James for his recent comments on President Donald Trump [LINK] in a segment called the Jumb Dock Alert (okay, that was kinda funny). Here's a sentence-by-sentence breakdown of what the low-budget Ann Coulter (and high-budget Tomi Lahren) said, and whether it's, well, true.
0:16 – "This time it's R-Rated." Was there nudity in the clip? Strong brutal violence? Strong sexual content? Drug material? Oh, profanity. Remember that time a couple years ago when you melted down on radio with the "we're gonna lose every fucking station we have"?
0:18 – "Here's his barely intelligible, not to mention, ungrammatical take on President Trump in a new ESPN podcast." Ingraham uses the word "ungrammatical", which is in fact a word, so points there. She loses steam near the end of the sentence, where she calls it an "ESPN podcast," even though the interview was not on ESPN (which should have been obvious from the big 'Uninterrupted' logo in the corner) and wasn't a podcast (which was obvious when she played a VIDEO clip). Between the mistakes, Ingraham's voice reeks of condescension, for surely no athlete could stand against her Ivy League education.
0:46 – Ingraham uses air quotes when saying "Trump's 'racist' comments" which is strange, because we can still remember the shithole comments right? Right?
1:12 – "Must they run their mouths like that?" wonders Ingraham aloud. There's definitely some denigration built into her tone, but what's more concerning is the use of the word "they". The clip she played included comments from James, fellow NBA all-star Kevin Durant, and ESPN host Cari Champion, which means that the "they" definitely couldn't have been referring to 'athletes'. I wonder what else those three have in common…
1:14 – "Unfortunately, a lot of kids and some adults take these ignorant comments seriously." That's a big assumption about the demographic of LeBron/ESPN's audience, especially considering how Fox News has a very distinct demographic. You know, the type to take ignorant comments seriously. The Boomers. It's the Boomers.
1:24 – "This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early." As James himself noted in a response, he graduated high school, so no points for factual accuracy (not exactly Laura's strong suit). More importantly, Ingraham isn't particularly clear; what is it that happens when you attempt to leave high school early? You become a wealthy influential black man? That would be a problem, wouldn't it.
1:31 – "And it's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a hundred million dollars a year to bounce a ball." Technically, dribbling is approximately one-fourth of the game (there's also passing, shooting, and defense), so LeBron probably gets paid around $25 million for the dribbling portion alone. By the way, Laura Ingraham gets paid $2 million dollars a year to read off a teleprompter for her show, which in a sense is the biggest game of all.
A subtle point lost in Ingraham's commentary was the fact that the video excerpt was cherrypicked from a 16-minute interview with James, Durant, and Champion. Here's a Durant quote from later in the interview: "I'm starting to realize, my voice is a little bit stronger than it was before, and now I gotta start thinking about stuff that empowers people, that affects people in a great way… I don't have really it all together… we're all going to mature at our different speeds and different times, but I am where I am, and I can give you the experiences that I have." James even addressed how a vandal spray painted the word "NIGGER" on the front gate of his Brentwood home last summer, stating "they will always figure out a way to let you know that you're still beneath them… you can either cave into that notion or chalk it up and say… I'm going to paint over this god damn gate and I'm going to make it taller." These are all sentiments that Ingraham – or anyone really – could probably agree with, or at least have empathy for. But naturally, it was the couple of sentences about Trump that Ingraham chose to spotlight and critique. To her, that's what matters. Not the continuing racism that they've endured, not their self-awareness of the maturation process, but the fact that he had the audacity to attack her dear leader.
1:38 – "LeBron and Kevin, you're great players, but no one voted for you." Also inaccurate. Thousands of kids and adults pay money to go and spend time with players like James and Durant at their basketball camps, or to see them speak. If you want a more literal example of voting, Durant and James both received upward of 2 million votes to play in this year's all-star game. Add that to Trump's popular vote count and he might have actually beaten Hillary a few Novembers ago. On the note of a vote count, who exactly voted for you, Laura?
1:46 – "So keep the political commentary to yourself…" What qualifies someone to speak about politics? Laura Ingraham got her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth, and her JD from the University of Virginia. She's written six books, hosted a radio show, and now a television show. Despite all those impressive credentials, there's one thing missing: a certification which grants her the right to talk about politics. It's the same certification that Jimmy Kimmel doesn't have, but he'll still talk about politics. Same with the Dixie Chicks, Robert DeNiro, and Gregg Popovich, all of whom Ingraham criticized in a subsequent statement released by Fox News. It's hard to imagine what, in Ingraham's mind, would qualify these people to talk about politics. Does political activism make you a licensed pundit? Because LeBron has been an advocate for education in his hometown of Akron, sponsoring hundreds of kids through high school and even higher education. Do you have to hold elected office? Or do you have to simply run for elected office? Because there's definitely one person currently serving in government who was definitely objectively unqualified to talk about politics while he was running for office.
Not that it bothered Ingraham. Hypocritically, she has a long history of conflating sports and politics, once using a picture of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 championship parade in CLEVELAND and captioning it as "5 miles of Trump supporters waiting to meet POTUS in Phoenix", and praising former NCAA coach Bobby Knight for endorsing Trump on Fox's B-Team channel. And this isn't even her first spat with LeBron, as she blasted "King LeBron" last September for his ignorance regarding… Skittles? This follows in the vein of one (unqualified to talk about politics OR sports) Donald Trump, who in the last year called NFL players "sons of bitches" and threw a fit about inviting championship players to attend the White House. You'd think that a conservative pundit like Ingraham would admire the story of someone like LeBron James, the classic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story, someone who uses his voice (just like Ingraham does) to talk about things he thinks are important. Just like the litany of entertainers and non-politicians that Ingraham parades onto her show to openly and cordially agree with her. And that seems like the sticking point, doesn't it? Agree with her and you're welcomed into the bubble. Disagree, and you're just a dumb jock.
There's also a common thread between the people she name-checked – they're all in entertainment. Is there something about those specific professions that's disqualifying? Because the jobs of the 'everyday American' (the coal miner, the construction worker, etc.) don't preclude them from having a (for their stature, disproportionate) effect on American politics.
1:50 "Or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble." Is that a thing? Has this line of basketball jargon somehow escaped my knowledge? I know there's various calls to action by invoking "shut up," like 'shut up and dance' or 'shut up and drive' or 'shut up and take my money' or even 'shut up and hold on to your nipples'. Does Ingraham say that in casual conversation? Is it a reference to her book where she told Kimmel to shut up and make us laugh? And if so, did he just quote herself without specifying that it was herself she was quoting?
In the aftermath, the former White House Press Secretary candidate indeed confirmed that her comments had nothing (I was using air quotes around that word, but I guess you couldn't see those) to do with race, and invited LeBron on her show to discuss the matter further. Which is weird, because she's been rather open about how she thinks athletes shouldn't talk about politics, but I guess it's okay as long as it's on her show.
The word 'politics' has slowly become a dirty word. It's more acceptable to call yourself a 'lawmaker' or a 'congresswoman', rather than shamefully admit that you're a 'politician'. Simple discourse, if disagreeable, is labeled as 'politicizing' an issue. People are lambasted for 'playing politics' all the time. But politics is simply a way of collectively describing the activities and issues that affect us all, that have an impact on our lives. Ingraham uses her political punditry as a shield, serving as a gatekeeper for the realm of politics as a whole. She immunizes political elites from criticism, arming only herself with the credibility to voice an opinion about them. Ingraham may have learned more things over the course of her life than LeBron has, but by no means does that imply that she *knows* more than LeBron. Especially when it comes to politics, or as we should say, life.