Morgan Golliver, News Editor
Last Thursday, Laura Ingraham, a Fox News journalist and host of “The Ingraham Angle,” took on political actions from athletes during a live newscast, telling the NBA’s LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.” Her comments were made after James talked politics and President Donald Trump in an interview with ESPN.
As news of Ingraham’s comments has added to the debate surrounding professional political commentary, Utica College students and staff have also responded to whether or not athletes should be involved in politics.
Paul MacArthur, a professor of public relations and journalism, teaches courses related to sports media as well as communications law. He stated that based on the First Amendment athletes are allowed to say what they want.
“I did not watch the video of Ingraham, but I did read about it, and I think no one should tell someone else what they can or cannot talk about,” MacArthur said. “LeBron does not lose his First Amendment rights just because he is a basketball player.”
MacArthur also commented on the effects that athletes can have on political discussions if they choose to be involved.
“Famous athletes have a ‘soapbox,’” he said. “They can communicate their message to a much wider audience than an average person. They can also have a much broader influence because people and the media will pay more attention to the athlete over others, even experts.”
Because athletes have the power to express their message, there are some concerns regarding voicing political opinions, which MacArthur said could be based on jealousy.
“Some people are jealous and resentful over the success and platform that athletes have,” MacArthur said. “They also try to lessen and neutralize the athlete by being dismissive over what the athlete said rather than addressing the athlete’s point.”
In terms of politics in sports, MacArthur explained that sports will never be politically free.
“Sports are a microcosm of society,” he said. “As long as there’s politics in society, there will be politics in sports.”
Maggie Tabone, a UC basketball player, agreed that sports will always have some element of politics.
“I do not think sports will ever be politics-free because it’s an opportunity for people to come together regardless of political affiliation,” Tabone said. “It’s not like only republicans like the Cavs and basketball. Athletes are entitled to their own opinions and sharing them with the world if they so choose. I think athletes owe it to society to use their platform for the good of the country and have these hard conversations.”
Tabone, a senior, is also the president of the UC Student Athletic-Advisory Committee (SAAC).
“I had heard about the situation through social media, but I actually just sat down to watch the video of Laura Ingraham and was slightly taken aback by her comments about James,” Tabone said. “I think in America, if you have the right to vote, you have every right to speak about politics. James is known for speaking out against social injustice and he has a platform that reaches so many people. If an athlete can speak intelligently and truthfully on a situation and can share his/her opinion respectfully, I think they have every right to engage in political discourse as they are citizens, too.”
Junior Madison Babicz also feels that athletes should be able to speak about anything they want but thinks they should keep in mind the words they use.
“I think that athletes have the right to act in whichever way they please as far as politics,” Babicz said. “With that said, they must keep in mind the vitality of the words they say and the actions they execute. On a higher pedestal, there are more eyes on the athlete. Power and strong voice allow for change. As long it is a noble cause or a passionate feeling without hate, violence or discrimination, I fully support any athlete that chooses to have a public political outlook.”