On Friday, Feb. 26, Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James clapped back at another ignorant “shut up and dribble” quip. James dismissed criticism by Sweden soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic about his social activism and believes that his comments were very hypocritical.
In a pointed critique of James, Ibrahimovic suggested that the NBA superstar needs to stop getting involved with politics and focus more on the world of sports, particularly basketball.
“Athletes unite the world, politics divide it,” Ibrahimovic said at a press conference promoting the Sanremo Music Festival, according to The Guardian. “Our role is to unite the world by doing what we do best. Athletes should be athletes and politicians should do politics.”
In a not-so-subtle jab at Ibrahimovic, James had a verbal comeback.
“I will never stick with sports,” James said.
In an interview with Discovery+, Ibrahimovic said, “I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics,” “That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.” according to Fox Sports on theScore. It is good that Lebron James is continuing to fight against injustice.”
Ibrahimovic is known to express his opinion depending on what the issue is about. Ibrahimovic criticized James because he was using his platform to push for social change. A couple of years ago, Ibrahimovic was considered to be “undercover racist” mostly because of his surname. Ibrahimovic speaks out about athletes that get involved with politics. In his mind, this is a huge mistake.
Counter to what Ibrahimovic or anyone else thinks, James believes it is important to continue to use his megaphone bullhorn to speak out against equity as well as racial and social justice.
“At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 102-93, on Feb. 26. “I preach about my people and I preach about inequality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community because I was part of my community at one point and seeing things that are going on. I know what’s going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice.”
Ibrahimovic doesn’t have the right to criticize James just because of the star player’s beliefs. It is James’ choice if he wants to be in politics or talk about social justice. He has the right to speak up about what is happening since James lives in a country that secures his first amendment rights. James has the right to speak about what is happening in the U.S. That includes talking about police brutality if he wants to.
James can be political all he wants while playing in the NBA. Ibrahimovic can’t do anything about it. Whether it’s James or other athletes, it is their voice. Ibrahimovic is causing all this drama with James because LeBron keeps ignoring him.
This would not be the first time that Ibrahimovic has made a public stink. In 2018, Ibrahimovic caused an uproar with claims of how he is treated by the media because of his last name. The culprit: racism.
“This is about racism. This is about racism. I don’t say there is racism, but I say there is undercover racism,” Ibrahimovic said in an interview with Canal + (Bleacher Reporter). “This exists, I am 100 percent sure, because I am not Andersson or Svensson. If I would be that, trust me, they would defend me even if I would rob a bank. They would defend me, I tell you.”
James, in return, called out Ibrahimovic’s hypocrisy.
“I believe in 2018 he was the same guy who said when he was back in Sweden he was talking about the same things,” James said in the same Lakers-Trail Blazers postgame press conference back in February. “Because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, he felt like there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch. He did say that right? I thought he said that. I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at because I do my homework.”
Contrary to what Ibrahimovic thinks, James has a lot of supporters for the work he does off the basketball court.
According to Sam Quinn & Chris Bengel of the CBS sports, “LeBron James is one of the most socially conscious athletes in the world. Whether it’s starting his “More Than a Vote” campaign to fight back against voter suppression, speaking out against gun violence or even opening the “I Promise” school in Akron, Ohio, James has never been shy about using his fame to help those less fortunate than himself.”
At the end of the day, James has a right to speak out on whatever topic he wants to, whether it’s police brutality or racism or athletes taking a knee. It’s his privilege. It’s his choice. And yes, he is allowed to do more than just “shut up and dribble,” Laura Ingraham.