Is the NBA becoming too political?

John Madden, Centurian Staff

Basketball icon Lebron James is one of the many athletes being called out by AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic for using his status to share his political beliefs.

Zlatan said that while he admires James for his talent, he also believes that it is a “mistake” when athletes get involved in political and social issues.

“[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” Ibrahimovic said. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. 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.”

“I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community, I know what’s going on still, because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that’s going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I’m their voice. I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world. There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is,” James responded to Zlatan’s comments.

This is not the first time James received criticism for being outspoken about social and political issues. In 2018, conservative television host Laura Ingraham made headlines when she told James to “shut up and dribble.”

A recent Harris poll has shown that 39 percent of sports fans think the NBA is too political and were watching fewer games as a result. Interestingly enough, 57 percent of Republican voters said they were more likely to turn it off on the television, compared to 22 percent of Democratic voters.

This anti-NBA sentiment seemingly increased after president Donald Trump criticized the league for allowing athletes to not stand for the national anthem. “People are tired of watching the highly political @NBA. Basketball ratings are WAY down, and they won’t be coming back. I hope football and baseball are watching and learning because the same thing will be happening to them. Stand tall for our Country and our Flag!!!” Trump tweeted.

A number of fans were also outraged in the decision by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, to discontinue playing of the national anthem altogether before games. This was short lived as the league made its decision after 11 games without it. A league spokesperson said, “With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy.