“Shut Up and Dribble if you are not for Black Liberation.”
I see I got your attention. Good, that’s a fantastic start. Now let’s have a conversation.
Before delving into the content, allow me to give some background on the now infamous quote, “Shut up and Dribble.” NBA superstar and future Hall of Famer, Lebron James was interviewed back in 2018. During this interview, James spoke on politics and the current President of the United States.
“The №1 job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people,” James said at one point during the interview, adding that some of the President’s comments are “laughable and scary.”
Journalist Laura Ingraham, an outspoken supporter of the President, weighed in with her unsolicited opinion. Man, James’ comments seemed to hit a particular nerve for Ingraham. She went on to say, “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said. “Keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.”
Honestly, when I first heard Ingraham’s comments, I wasn’t surprised by the commentary. Ingraham rooted her statement in bigotry. She just wanted a Black person to shut up and know their place in society. I’m afraid I have to disagree with those sentiments. That way of thinking has always been publicized by whiteness to force Black people to not stand up against oppression. More or less, whenever a Black man or woman has spoken “out of turn” amongst whites, they excoriated them. It’s not solely about words; it’s more about white people feeling the need to marginalize Black experiences.
While this overwrought, racist statement is something, I will never condone. It is time we accurately examine just how effective athletes are when asked to discuss anything beyond practice, endorsements, or their opponent’s latest trash talk, more specifically, how Black athletes talk about social injustice and politics. Black athletes serve a dual role in their community, both entertainer and spokesperson for all things Black, something like being the only Black kid in your class during Black History Month.
Due to this never-ending conundrum and the clumsiness with which athletes often handle everything non-sports-related, I have decided it’s time we figure out if it is time for these athletes to actually “Shut up and Dribble.” I am specifically talking about how and where Black athletes allocate their resources and support. Also, how the Black community forces these Black athletes to be something they genuinely are not revolutionaries. Based on this, I am amending Ingraham’s statement…
Shut up and dribble, if you are not for Black Liberation.
When I say, “Shut up and Dribble if you’re not for Black Liberation.” That means what it says. The Black community encourages athletes to speak for the Black community, and it’s not their job or place to do so. They are entertainers, not revolutionaries. When done correctly, Black revolutionaries who happen to be athletes can be agents of change. For example, if Muhammad Ali would have “shut up and boxed,” he would not have made the impact he did on society. If John Carlos and Tommie Smith would have just shut up and run, then we would have never witnessed their iconic raised fist during the 1968 Summer Olympics. Think of Craig Hodges. In 1992, he wore a white robe to the ceremony, a traditional African garment. He wrote a letter of protest by hand, completing it in the final minutes and delivering it to one of Bush’s press liaisons. Hodges’ letter to the President was about his discontent with the Bush administration’s mistreatment of the poor and minority communities. Hodges was no stranger to speaking out and being a revolutionary. Hodges argued players have to become more involved in the community and political spheres. He wanted them to support black businesses and lobby for minority empowerment within the sports leagues. Hodges was not alone in 1996, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the National Anthem. When interviewed, he said the flag was a symbol of oppression and that the United States had a long history of tyranny. Both men sacrificed their careers, speaking, fighting for their beliefs, and doing revolutionary acts before it was cool and acceptable to fight for social justice.
Throughout sports, we see Black athletes regurgitate messages pre-approved by white liberals. The same white liberals that leaders like Malcolm X warned us about years ago. Voting is pushed heavily by Black athletes. Though voting is important, there is more to Black liberation than going to the polls and voting. Self-defense, Group Economics, Afrocentric Youth Development, African-centered Education, and Mental/Physical health work together to create a solution for Black liberation. Why are Black athletes not pushing these agendas with the same intensity they have for voting? The simple answer, the average Black athletes, are not revolutionaries.
There have been multiple pointless conversations, and empty symbolic gestures forced down the Black community’s throat. Black athletes have been doing the heavy lifting with that. Here are a couple of examples:
The Mississippi State football player said he would not play until the state of Mississippi changes their flag.
Nick Saban leading a march
NBA giving players approved messages to put on the back of their jerseys
NFL playing the “Lift Every Voice” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
NBA Players sitting out the playoffs for one game
MLB Players sitting out one game
NASCAR and that peaceful protest
These symbolic gestures have not led to anything remotely positive. The Black community is still suffering, but hey, The NBA put “Black Lives Matter” on a basketball court. These events bring me back to James’ comments. Names like Lebron James being the loudest voice speaking on behalf of the Black community is a problem. From the outside looking in, James is a great husband, father, and basketball player. Nobody will ever take that away from him. However, he needs to understand that he is not a revolutionary, and James does not need to speak unless he talks about revolution. My sentiments are not an attack on James, but people consider him to be the most influential athlete, and he wants to be at the forefront, then he will need to be criticized.
James said, “We are scared as Black people.” That is not revolutionary. James wore a hat that said, “Make America Great Again. Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor.” Whoever created the apparel crossed out Make America Great Again, but yet again, that is not revolutionary. During a post-game interview, Lebron was holding a book in his hand. The book was “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Lebron was asked his biggest takeaway from the book, and he said, “Ummm, he’s a smart man.” That’s faking the funk. It’s performative, it’s symbolic, but it is not revolutionary.
The difference between a revolutionary and a moderate is the revolutionary comes up with a plan and solutions. The moderate gives you the illusion of a plan and solutions. So I will end this article with some suggestions for Black athletes on what they can do to help the Black community.
- Research, seek out, listen to, and support Black Liberation Organizations in the cities you play in and grew up in.
- Give Black Grassroots leaders the platform you have to speak on solutions.
- Stop pandering to the Black community with the Democratic Party.
- Be ready to fund, promote, and vote for Black Political Parties with the Black community’s genuine interest at heart.
- STOP FUNDING BLM. WE DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT MONEY IS GOING!
- STOP BEGGING FOR REFORM. CAN’T REFORM WHITE SUPREMACY.
- Advocate for Black people to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights
- “Shut up and Dribble if you’re not for Black Liberation.”