News & Politics

Why Does It Matter What LeBron James Says About China, or Anything Else?

U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball team member LeBron James goes up for shot against China's Yao Ming Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008, during action in the Group B men's Olympic basketball game between the U.S. and China, at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

If you’re like me — and if so, I’m genuinely sorry — you don’t care about sports at all. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with sports, necessarily, but it just doesn’t interest you. The only time you pay attention to professional athletes is when they make front-page news by scolding you for some social ill that you have no control over. This has been happening with increasing frequency in recent years. Guys who make millions of dollars by throwing objects at each other want you to know what a bad person you are, and you’re expected to listen.

For example:

The basketball man wants you to speak up about things that matter. Otherwise, injustice will thrive. Sounds good, I guess.

How’s that one workin’ out for him these days?

“Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, and you’re only thinking about yourself. I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”

So he’s amending his previous statement: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… except when it takes money out of my pocket. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter… but I’m very, very rich and I plan to keep it that way.”

That’s quite a change from this sort of thing, isn’t it?

His platform obliges him to guide people who need his wisdom… but also, never mind all that.

Now: Does this matter? Are professional athletes going to change anything one way or another with regards to politics in China, or any other issue? I don’t think so and I never have. For all I care, LeBron can go full Rodman and become best buds with Xi Jinping. But if LeBron is going to scold me for disagreeing with him about social issues in America, why should he get off the hook for saying stupid $#!+ about China? If he’s going to defend free speech when it suits him, why should he get away with calling for silence when it suits him? Why should his blatant hypocrisy go unremarked?

Which isn’t to say he should “shut up and dribble.” Unlike LeBron, I believe in the principle of free speech whether or not it fattens my wallet. I think he and all other pro athletes should continue to express their opinions, no matter how ignorant and self-contradictory they may be. They should continue to call Trump a tyrannical despot, which is met with no government interference whatsoever, while groveling to actual tyrants who are cracking down viciously on any dissenters within their own borders. Guys who make a very good living by putting a ball through a hoop should keep championing free speech, except when it might hurt their own bank accounts.

Go ahead, multimillionaire pro athletes. Keep being as clumsy on the world stage as you are graceful in your chosen sport. It’s funnier that way.