This has got to be getting difficult for Laura Ingraham, a conservative pundit who no doubt is finding it difficult navigating a new world order in which young African Americans with God-given gifts unfathomable to her now almost daily treat her as little more than a bug splattering against a windshield.
Bryant, a five-time NBA World Champion, two-time Finals MVP and league MVP, mocked Ingraham on Sunday night when he became the first person to ever win both a sports world championship and an Oscar, which he garnered in the Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball.”
The relevance difference between James and Ingraham is made clear in their Twitter following: James, 33, has more than 40 million, many of them young voters well aware of the hundreds of disenfranchised youth who otherwise would have little chance at a future James sends to college through his foundations and many other acts of philanthropy; Ingraham, 20 years his senior, has 1/20th the following and her only discernible skill is hate-mongering to Trump’s angry supporters.
When Bryant, who retired from the NBA almost two years ago, picked up his award Sunday, part of his acceptance speech included this homage to James: “As basketball players we’re supposed to shut up and dribble. I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”
Trying to parlay James’ acknowledgement of her existence (he admitted to have never heard of her until she chimed in on him), Ingraham pretty much begged James to give her an audience on her court – her cable television show – but James, a three-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP and a four-time league MVP wisely blew her off, recognizing that it would be an attempted ambush and that the real reason for her groveling served one very transparent purpose – to give her a boost in the ratings her own talent is incapable of producing.
Ingraham is too intellectually dishonest to acknowledge that she was playing the race card with James, and why should she? Not when a 2016 poll of voters with a favorable view of Trump indicated that two-thirds of his supporters – the lion’s share of her audience – remained convinced that former President Obama was Muslim, and a quarter believed that arch conservative Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, who died of natural causes that year, was murdered.
Ingraham’s shows routinely feature whites who went no further than high school attempting to engage in political banter. This includes people such as varmint-hunting, Obama-hating National Rifle Association Board member Ted Nugent. A faded rock and roller who has gone decades without a hit, Nugent’s most noted offerings to the political discourse are threats on Obama’s life that resulted in a Secret Service investigation and calling Obama a “sub-human mongrel.”
Yet it is James who should shut up and dribble.
It is progress and the resulting rewarding of talents like Bryant that the Laura Ingrahams of the world resent deep down. She likely agreed with 2016 Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, who two years ago suggested that claims of a diversity deficit are racist to white people.
And she probably also concurred with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who in 2014 said he had never hired a Black host for his Sirius/XM channel, Mad Dog Radio, because he had never come across a Black host worthy of the job.
If there is a lesson to be learned by these young Black uber stars, it is that the next time one of these antagonists injects him or herself into your universe — and they will — the best possible reaction is to ignore them. The roles have been shifted. Believe it or not, they need you far more than you need them.
John N. Mitchell has worked as a journalist for more than a quarter century. He can be reached at email@example.com and Tweet at @freejohnmitchel.