In the past few years there has been a backlash against athletes for sharing their beliefs -- as if because they are athletes in the spotlight, they don't have the right to have an opinion or a thought. Sometimes because they are multimillionaires there are those that believe their thoughts shouldn't be valued as much as those who aren't.
We now live in a society where we can't disagree without being disagreeable. If someone has a different opinion they must be wrong and we get hateful and hurtful in explaining why they are wrong.
Recently, Fox's Laura Ingraham made the following statement after she disagreed with Lebron Jame's opinion on President Trump:
"It's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball. Keep the political comments to yourselves. ... Shut up and dribble."
I bring this particular instance up because yesterday Lebron opened I Promise School, a public school with the goal of assisting at-risk students in the 3rd and 4th grade in the Akron area. It was done in conjunction with Akron University. It was built in large part with over 40 million dollars from Lebron’s foundation.
School highlights include:
◄Free transportation within 2 miles
◄Free breakfast, lunch and snacks
◄Guaranteed college tuition for every student
◄Food pantry for families
◄GED and job placement services for parents
◄Free bicycle and helmet.
Ingraham's comments reminded me of a story I once heard about legendary Boston Celtic center Bill Russell. Russell was somewhere with teammate John Havlicek when a woman stopped, surveyed Russell's height and said "Are you a basketball player?"
Russell replied, "No."
After the woman left, Havlicek asked Russell why he chose to mislead the woman. Russell replied:
"I didn't mislead her. She asked me if I was a basketball player. I am a man that happens to play basketball. It's what I do -- it's not who I am."
We see these athletes, or actors and actresses, and musicians and we overlook that they are people. People that have had experiences and often give back in important ways. Can we disagree with their opinions? Absolutely. But they have the right, the freedom, to have and share as much as anyone.
As someone that has been blessed to have coached some athletes that have been able to make a living doing what they love. I know they have shown through their heart -- through their work, their love and their pocketbook how to give back and make an impact. Athletes I've coached like Seimone Augustus, Kelsey Bone, Sylvia Fowles, Shaquille O'Neal, and Temeka Johnson have done amazing work through their own foundations and volunteer work.
While certainly there have been an occasional athlete who has fell short in their foundation goals, the large majority of them have done amazing things for their communities and causes close to their hearts. Far more than we can count.
Lebron, thanks for not shutting up and dribbling!