Conservatives have been successfully derailing the critically important conversation about racism and police violence ever since Colin Kaepernick began his peaceful “take a knee” protest using his platform as an NFL player. It wasn’t enough that they shamed him, the league, owners and anyone supporting him until he finally found himself unemployed. Instead, they launched a nationwide smear campaign that painted any black athlete who spoke about the issue and about racism as ungrateful, spoiled, ignorant and unAmerican.

Leading the way were Donald Trump and his cronies on Fox News—most notably anchors like Laura Ingraham who specifically said that one NBA athlete who spoke out, LeBron James, should actually spend less time criticizing the president and just “shut up and dribble.” 

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Calling James a “dumb jock”, “unintelligible” and “ungrammatical”, Ingraham couldn’t be bothered to hide her white supremacist viewpoints as she, a privileged white woman, felt it was her place to tell her sycophantic viewers that James isn’t entitled to First Amendment rights because he’s a black basketball player. Now to be fair, these folks also do the same thing to celebrities of all colors who critique the status quo and threaten to upend the social oppression they are so fond of. But there is a special and not so covert way that white people use catch phrases, evoke emotion and appeal to patriotism in order to silence people of color, particularly black folks, when we talk about the pervasive interpersonal and systemic racism in America. What these conservatives are doing is not new or original. Neither is what James is doing. Black athletes have been using their platforms to speak out against racism for decades. It’s just too bad America has never listened and actually done something about it. 

Luckily, King James (as he is known among basketball fans) didn’t listen to Ingraham. He ignored her completely. He kept right on reading this president for filth publicly and encouraging his good friend Golden State Warrior’s point guard Steph Curry, not to visit the White House after being invited for winning the NBA championship. But James really put his money where his mouth is when, on Monday, he opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school is a public school for 240 at-risk kids, designed to give them opportunities despite their difficult personal circumstances. 

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LeBron was told to “shut up and dribble.” Instead he opened a school.And he tells me he has no regrets about critizing Donald Trump: “For someone to try to divide us by using our platform of sport? Sport has given me everything I could ever ask for – I couldn’t let that happen” pic.twitter.com/wyzuuTd3Eo

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) July 31, 2018

As SB Nation notes, the school is different from other local public schools in that it will have a longer school year, and have a “focus on accelerated learning to bring kids up to speed who otherwise might be lagging.” There are activities for students to prevent too much down time which might cause them to get in trouble outside of school. And there are services to help students deal with stress related to their home situations. But here’s what’s also really amazing about the school—it also has services for parents, including job placement assistance and a food bank. 

This is not the first time that James has invested in the kids of Akron. Three years ago, his LeBron James Family Foundation announced that they were investing in an initiative to pay for the college tuition for 1,000 local kids. He has also funded a program that has provided school supplies, computers and bikes to keep kids motivated to do their homework and get good grades. Apparently, bikes were an important part of James’s childhood that allowed him to thrive in spite of the dangers in his community. Thus, he’s also giving each I Promise student a bike at the start of the school year. 

LeBron James often credits his bicycle as a huge factor in his childhood that gave him an escape from dangerous parts of his neighborhood and the freedom to explore — every student will receive a bicycle when they arrive.

Laura Ingraham may think that LeBron James should just shut up and dribble. And Donald Trump may think that James and athletes like him that use their platforms to call attention to inequality are “sons of bitches.” But James is actually doing good in the world and transforming the lives of needy children. Conservatives can’t say they are doing the same. They aren’t doing anything but race baiting, dividing, taking away health care, kidnapping migrant children and turning America into one of the shithole countries they say that don’t want people to migrate from. LeBron James is out here winning and helping at-risk kids to win too. You don’t have to like him or even enjoy basketball to appreciate that. Long live King James!

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