LOS ANGELES – The timing was perfect.
While social media was still buzzing Friday about Laura Ingraham’s segment on Fox News, where the host told LeBron James and Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” rather than share their views about President Trump as they had in a recent joint interview, people across Los Angeles were benefitting from NBA athletes who refused to “stick to sports” and took part in nine charity events during All-Star weekend. Funny how that tired trope doesn’t come up when players are investing their time and money to give back to society.
While Ingraham would later put out a statement claiming there was “no racial intent” behind her words, Durant simply doesn’t agree.
“To me, it was racist,” he told USA TODAY Sports while shaking his head.
James, who drew much of the focus of Ingraham’s criticism, is one of the most charitable athletes in all of pro sports. The LeBron James Family Foundation benefits hundreds of students in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. There’s an Akron public school on the way that will be financed by the foundation, and Boys & Girls Clubs all over the country have reaped the rewards of his generosity. The same goes for Durant, who has a charity foundation of his own that focuses on helping kids from low-income backgrounds.
Celtics' Jaylen Brown: Laura Ingraham's comments were 'ridiculous' and 'insulting'
For Durant, who spent much of his Friday in Culver City for his NBA Cares experience with the Baby2Baby organization, this kind of commentary comes as no surprise. Sadly, the Golden State Warriors star is numb to this kind of discussion.
In between his time talking to kids and helping the group that has distributed 34 million items to the needy in the last six years, Durant elaborated on his thoughts.
Q: So how did her comments hit you when you first heard them?
A: “It didn’t hit me. Ignorance is something I try to ignore. That was definitely an ignorant comment. I do play basketball, but I am a civilian and I am a citizen of the United States, so my voice is just as loud as hers, I think – or even louder. I can’t focus on that. I think we’re doing some good things out here, using our platform, and I think what me and LeBron did with Uber (and UNINTERRUPTED) the other day when it came out, I thought it was great. I thought a lot of people enjoyed it. I got so many encouraging texts from it. A lot of people enjoyed what we had to say, a lot more than just politics, which we didn’t even talk about. It’s just life that we talked about. My whole thing is I can’t dwell on that, and I can’t let that distract me from the real goal at hand, which is to continue to encourage and empower people around the world.”
Q: Has it reached a point where you’re so used to this kind of thing that it just doesn’t surprise you anymore? I’d heard that was part of your reaction.
A: “You see it. Like I said, our President made it cool for people to kind of speak their truth and kind of show what they’re really about. It’s cool to uncover that now. So we know it’s coming. We know if we use our voice and it’s not what some people may agree with, of course they’re going to say ignorant things like that. But we are the American dream. We come from nothing. We rose up in our profession to be able to take care of our families forever. I think everybody in the country would want to do that, so I think more people want to be us than – I don’t even know her name, whoever that lady is.”
Q: Did you and LeBron discuss it yet?
A: “No. I haven’t talked to him about it. But like I said, we can’t focus on that. Life is much bigger than an opinion, an ignorant comment from someone. It is what it is. I kind of feel sorry for her, because she’s not looking through the lens of being free and what that’s about. It feels bad that she doesn’t know what we came from, or who we are personally. She might actually enjoy being around us, and might actually feel inspired by being around not just me or LeBron but guys in our position, anybody of another color who has risen up and done something positive in life. It might be inspiring to her as well. You never know. It’s kind of sad that she’s so close minded.”
Q: This was yet another person going down that “stick to sports” road. How tired are you of that idea?
A: “I’m still going to be a citizen here in the US when I’m done playing basketball, and my voice still doesn’t matter at that point? I don’t play basketball 24 hours a day. I live in this world, just like everybody else. I don’t get what she’s saying, but I know what she’s trying to say.”
Q: Did you watch the whole segment?
A: “Yeah, I watched it. But like I said, you tend to focus on the positive. It’s just sad to see people who think that way. It’s weird. It’s not even a place where we should be as humans. …To me, it was racist. What does (skin color) have to do with anything? We all have an opinion, just like she has an opinion that I disagree with. But I’m not going on TV, or tweeting, and calling her…
Q: Well she’s obviously questioning intellect, which is why it obviously struck a nerve with so many people.
A: “Yes. Yes. That’s exactly what it is. ..I just feel bad for her. I feel sorry for her, because she doesn’t understand.”