Voices Beyond the Baseline: Lebron and KD share their thoughts on the ‘Bad Coach in Chief’

Athletes speaking out about social issues isn’t exactly a new thing, but the way today’s players are using their platforms to express their views against a sitting president is anything but routine.

Case in point are the comments NBA stars Lebron James and Kevin Durant had to say in a recent interview regarding President Trump and his leadership — or lack there of.

The comments were featured in a 16 minute video on Lebron’s media site Uniterrupted. The video is done in partnership with the ride-sharing company Uber, and features Espn’s Cari Champion playing the role of chauffeur/interviewer while asking guests in the back seat a series of questions regarding their career on and off the court. There have been two other videos I know of thus far featuring Paul Pierce and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, with Ms. Champion being the driver in both instances. These videos give the viewer a somewhat more intimate look at today’s athletes thoughts and answers to challenges they face on and off the court.

On this particular ride, Ms. Champion had the opportunity to interview two of the NBA’s biggest stars for a somewhat unfiltered discussion on sports, politics, influence, and what drives them not just as athletes — but as men. The ride takes place in Lebron’s hometown of Akron, Ohio and features pit stops at the places that influenced him growing up.

During the ride a number of topics are discussed regarding money, influence, growing up and social responsibility. It’s enlightening to hear these two talk about things outside of basketball and give the audience some insight into what fuels them beyond the 94 feet of NBA hardwood.

One of the more interesting segments were each man’s thoughts on president Trump when prompted by a question by Cari Champion. Lebron came out and laid it right on the table when he said that Trump, “doesn’t give a fuck about the people.” Meanwhile, Durant added that the president should be showing more leadership and empowering people. Instead, according to Durant, Trump was doing just the opposite and running America like a “bad coach.”

These comments in of themselves aren’t all that noteworthy, but the mouths through which they were uttered, certainly are. The NBA — perhaps more than any other league –has been rather outspoken on number 45 and his policies. The fact that Durant and Lebron are speaking out, being the league’s two best players, only strengthen’s the NBA’s position as the league most likely to stand up to Trump.

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Lebron lets his stance be known via Instagram

Suffice to say, there were some not too happy with Lebron and KD’s words. Laura Ingraham of Fox News, called them two “dumb jocks,” “barely intelligible,” and that they should just “shut up and dribble.” In Ingram’s view, she doesn’t believe athletes should have a voice, let alone speak out against a president her employer just can’t stop fawning over.

What’s interesting is that Fox News has had plenty of entertainers and sports figures on their airwaves freely discussing issues and topics beyond their realm of expertise. Philadelphia Eagles player Chris Long, created quite the Twitter story of Fox’s hypocrisy of athletes and entertainers speaking out.

When asked about host Laura Ingraham’s comments during NBA All-Star weekend, Lebron James responded, “we will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will not do that.”

There has been a long history of black athletes speaking out in America. From Jackie Robinson, to Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Althea Gibson and others, many of them understood that their talents gave them a platform. That platform, in turn, gave them an opportunity to speak out on issues affecting millions of lives in the communities in which they grew up in, many of whom could only dream of such an audience. Even the notoriously quiet Michael Jordan has in recent years opened up.

With the ever evolving prevalence of video and social media, it’s never been easier for today’s athletes and superstars to lend their voice. With millions of followers and watchers around the world, it’d be foolish to expect them to just “shut and dribble,” without taking note of the world around them.

Real Classy Tribute to Derek Jeter

What I love about this ad is that there is no dialogue, no grand special effects or grand proclamations. We see one of New York’s most revered athletes shown getting respect from a host of people (even opposing players) for all that he has achieved over the years. The fact that the gratitude is expressed by the simplest of gestures — a hat-tip — makes this ad all the more rewarding.

Well done, Nike.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

On this day 67 years ago, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers and ushered in a watershed moment in American history. As the first black men to play in the big leagues, Jackie Robinson experienced insults and a racial animosity that no American athlete before — or since– has gone through. Today Major League Baseball commemorated the man who carried a burden in which we all rest upon.

Richard’s Rant Heard Roun’ The World

Richard Sherman sure was hyped following the NFC Championship Game last weekend. The post rant fallout hasn’t been nearly as fun however.

In the last couple of years the loquacious cornerback, Sherman, has gained a bit of a reputation for getting in to people’s faces and not being afraid to make a point. He did it to Tom Brady. He did it to offensive tackle Trent Williams and received a parting shot by way of a right hook. Neither of these two previous episodes received the attention of Sherman’s latest post game faux pas.

Here’s the video for those who might have missed it.

As you can see, Sherman is clearly excited and maybe just a tad vindictive towards 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The reporter, Erin Andrews, is clearly caught off guard.

I must admit when I first saw the interview as it was happening, my first thought was, “This guy sure is mad.” Then I thought about it more and remembered this man literally just made the game saving play against a guy who he feels slighted him in the past. Oh, and that play is one of the key reasons why the Seahawks are going to their second Super Bowl in the last 8 years.

In the days following the interview, the condemnation was swift.There were those who said Sherman was classless, a poor example of sportsmanship, and showed firsthand what not to do in a post-game interview. There were also those that used code words like ‘thug’ to describe Sherman’s antics. Some on social media even went as far as to refer to Sherman as a monkey.

Clearly, Sherman probably could have handled the post-game interview better, and he has since admitted as much. However, I think we have to remember that he was interviewed moments after he made the biggest play in the game, at home, and that he sealed his team’s trip to the Super Bowl in New Jersey (yes, New Jersey).

So to not expect him to be hyped and animated isn’t exactly fair. We want our athletes to be motivated, animated, and using whatever slights against them (real or imagined) to up their game even more to perform at the highest level. You can’t expect guys to be making tackles, taking hits, putting hats on people, and then get mad when they may not show the best decorum in a post-game interview. I have no problem with people who criticized Sherman’s rant for him going after Crabtree. But calling a man a thug (this so called thug also happens to be a Stanford grad) just based off nothing more than his appearance and an interview, reveals a lot more about some of Sherman’s critics than it does Sherman. Stay classy, folks.

Grantland Looks at the Portland vs. Seattle Rivalry

Basketball is big just about everywhere nowadays with the NBA, FIBA, NCAA Tournament and even AAU leagues popping up across the country. With that expansion has come some intense rivalries. In this video from Grantland we see just how intense those rivalries between cities can be when we get an introduction to the Portland vs. Seattle I-5 tussle.

In this short video we see reps from both cities speak on the ballers from their hoods and local tournaments over the years between the two northwestern neighbors. Definitely worth a look.

The Program 20 Years Later

This is probably one of the most underrated sports films of the last 20-25 years. I loved it when I first saw it 10 years ago and it continues to be one of my favorites.

“The Program” is a film about a fictional college football team and the challenges and obstacles they must overcome during the course of a season. That’s really just the icing on the cake however. Over the course of the film we get a view to varying degrees of the men who makeup the squad. There’s the alcoholic quarterback. The freshman running-back trying to supplant the senior in the starting lineup. The fierce linebacker who trash talks the opponent to psych himself up during the game before it eventually costs him. And finally, there’s the coach played by James Caan who is fighting to keep it all together.

The film does a good job delving into issues that affect not just college football programs, but college sports in general. Whether it’s boosters putting pressure on an administration, who in turn shifts that pressure towards the head coach, or players going through personal problems that they rather not have highlighted by the media, “The Program” touches on many of these things. It features a young Omar Epps who plays freshman running-back Darnell Jefferson and Halle Berry who plays Autumn Haley, who is Jefferson’s academic tutor.