LeBron James reiterated his position that he will not use his platform as an NBA superstar to just dribble a basketball, saying he will continue to "talk about what's really important."
James made his first public comments Saturday since Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized the Cleveland Cavaliers star for speaking out on the state of race relations in America and his view of the leadership in the White House.
"I will not just shut up and dribble," James said after All-Star practice. "... So, thank you, whatever her name is. ... I get to sit up here and talk about what's really important and how I can help change kids."
Ingraham had said James should "keep the political commentary to yourself. Or as someone once said, 'Shut up and dribble.'"
James initially responded with an Instagram post that contained a photo with the words "I am more than an athlete" and was captioned with #wewillnotshutupanddribble.
"It lets me know that everything I've been saying is correct for her to have that type of reaction," James said of Ingraham. "But we will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don't have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they're in."
Saying he doesn't mind being a symbol, James referenced past outspoken sports figures Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson, and said they all were not looking for rewards for their political commentary.
"We know it's bigger than us. It's not about us," James said. "I'm going to continue to do what I have to do to play this game that I love to play, but this is bigger than me playing the game of basketball."
James also discussed the impact that the new Marvel film "Black Panther" could have on African-American children as a possible inspiration. He then expressed his remorse for the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, saying there have been too many tragedies like that in the past 10 years without change.
Ingraham's "shut up and dribble" comment was in response to James' interview with ESPN's Cari Champion in a piece taped for UNINTERRUPTED in January. During that interview, James and Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant talked with Champion about this weekend's All-Star Game in Los Angeles and the political climate in the country from their perspectives. They were both also highly critical of President Donald Trump.
Durant, a member of Team LeBron for Sunday's All-Star Game, agreed Saturday that players should speak out.
"I feel like everybody has a voice, especially with our own platforms, we can use our voices for good," Durant said. "It's not just me. I feel like everybody in this room has a voice and it's getting louder and louder every day, so we've got to speak what we believe in, we've got to speak our truths, and we've got to keep it real out here."
Durant spoke to USA Today on Friday about Ingraham's remarks but declined to address them directly Saturday. He did praise James for using his power for good and inspiring other players to feel comfortable being themselves.
"I'm incredibly proud of our players for using the platform they have as players in the NBA and on social media to speak out on issues that are important to them. And I was proud of LeBron and Kevin's response to the comments that were made about them," said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. "I think even when I hear it even related to the one-and-done issue when people say that the one-and-done players shouldn't be in college because they don't care about an education I think is incredibly unfair to them.
"Just because they have enormous opportunity in the way maybe Bill Gates did or Mark Zuckerberg to create enormous wealth for themselves and their families certainly doesn't mean they don't care about an education. Many of them go on to continue to educate themselves, whether through going back to school in the summer, taking courses, doing things post-playing career. So it frustrates me."
Added Silver: "I should also say it's not lost on me or anybody in this room that there is enormous amount of racial tension in this country, enormous amount of social injustice, and I do see a role for this league in addressing those issues."
On Saturday, Ingraham released a statement defending her comments.
"In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called 'Shut Up & Sing,' in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks and Barbra Streisand, who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics," Ingraham said. "... If pro athletes and entertainers want to freelance as political pundits, then they should not be surprised when they're called out for insulting politicians. There was no racial intent in my remarks -- false, defamatory charges of racism are a transparent attempt to immunize entertainment and sports elites from scrutiny and criticism."
Ingraham added, "We stated on my show that these comments came from an ESPN podcast, which was not the case -- the content was unaffiliated with ESPN."