Ugh. He’s doing it again.
I have no real desire to write about political figures or issues. I have my own thoughts and opinions, but one of the reasons I’ve loved sports so much for so long is that they allow for vibrant, passionate and thoughtful discussions, while also simply entertaining us. The current political climate couldn’t be described by any of those adjectives and certainly isn’t entertaining, unless maybe you’re a Muscovite.
(Don’t worry, I had to look it up also.)
But the President of the United States decided to insert himself into the sports arena once again on Friday, feeling the need to tweet just prior to midnight that LeBron James is dumb. Not exactly the stuff of Daniel Webster, but also not at all surprising.
President Trump ended his tweet by proclaiming “I like Mike!” It was a subtle jab, but also a nod to his base that the past remains the golden age. Make America great again. Your old heroes can still be your heroes. Forget this LeBron guy, the greatest of all time was Michael Jordan — who was notoriously apolitical and inactive regarding national issues during his playing days.
This came on the heels of James saying during a CNN interview that the president is trying to divide us with sports. The tweet didn’t exactly do much to refute that claim.
The president has tweeted about James four other times in the past six years. All four were positive, calling James a “great guy” (twice), a “great player,” a “tough competitor,” that he “delivers under pressure” and that “Lebron’s (sic) time is now!” back in 2012. But as we’ve seen on multiple occasions, his opinions can change at the smallest hint of insecurity.
Through all the editing and revising of his opinions and claims over the past few years, President Trump’s most consistent remarks have been regarding NFL players and kneeling during the anthem. He dusts it off whenever a crisis emerges and uses it to drum up support at campaign rallies. Just a couple weeks ago, he tweeted out — almost gleefully — that “The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again.” He opined that a player kneeling once should be out for a game. A player kneeling twice should be out for the season without pay.
By the way, this was right after arriving home from Helsinki and the same day (July 20) that the president invited Vladimir Putin to the White House. Perhaps he felt like some damage control was necessary and pulled out his go-to talking point.
What makes this more confusing is that it should make conservatives crazy to see the government trying to tell a privately run business how to operate. It goes squarely against one of the most sacred tenets of conservatism. This is the most powerful member of the federal government sticking his nose into the free market.
But instead, it’s become a rallying cry. Again, forget the fact that peaceful protest is a guaranteed right from government reprisal, specifically. President Trump seems to have a love/hate relationship with the first amendment because he sure does like to speak freely. It’s just some of these fringe benefits like a free press and nonviolent protest that he seems to think could be axed without consequence.
The tweet regarding James stirred up lots of reaction from the sports community, as well as from journalists, other politicians and many average Americans. One person who has remained silent on the remark is James, himself. There was no retaliatory tweet, no counterpunch to the defamatory, blunt and childish insult. He just continued to promote the new school his foundation has started, which provides education and services to families in need.
So when these greedy (free market), overpaid (free market) athletes want to speak about politics, they are told that they don’t have the same rights as other Americans, to stick to sports and to literally “shut up and dribble.” Yet the president chooses to continue interjecting himself into their world when given any excuse to do so, or any opportunity to misrepresent their actions for a cheap applause break.
Opinions are fine. We should all be forming opinions on a variety of topics. But when one chooses to run for President of the United States, they should — should — realize that their opinion will carry weight to it and perhaps be a bit more discriminating when offering it. Instead, the president chose to use that platform to call a charitable basketball player dumb.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.