Sports are at the forefront of our national news, and this time it’s not for anything sports-related. It’s on a much grander scale, involving the White House. After LeBron James’ interview with Don Lemon on CNN, which also covered President Donald Trump, the president decided to speak out against James and Lemon via his favorite way of expressing himself, Twitter:

You knew it was coming. LeBron knew it was. It was just shocking that it came so late because LeBron did call our president a ‘bum’ last fall. This time, James took the higher road and did not address or respond to the situation.

And that has been the story of James’ life. He’s had so much pressure and expectations, with a lot of hate, but has been a standup citizen and a role model, with no scandals or run-ins with trouble, instead focusing his efforts to help the community.

But this story is beyond just James. It brings more focus to the evolving environment of politics and sports, and how they may be getting closer to each other. We’ve long lived in a world where athletes and politics have been completely separate. Ten years ago, we would not have had this kind of controversy because that’s just how things were. It was a taboo topic.

And you can’t say it’s good or bad that is was like that, or that things are different. Times have just changed, and we’ve had to evolve. Athletes have long been told to “stick to sports” and not get involved with anything other than that. It was considered black and white, but that boundary is slowly, but surely, becoming grayer. Athletes are now, more than ever, speaking out on politics.

LeBron vs. Trump only boosts the process. Athletes have more power now than they ever did. They’re some of the most powerful and influential people in the country. And now they are taking advantage of a platform that wasn’t previously given to them. And LeBron James may be the face of this.

He’s has been outspoken about his opinion on President Trump, even campaigning for his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton in Ohio, which is a red state. During an interview with ESPN’s Cari Champions earlier in the year, James, with Kevin Durant, tackled personal topics such as personal growth, family, and the responsibility of being powerful African-American figures in the U.S.

Fox employee, Laura Ingraham didn’t take too kindly to LeBron and his take on politics and the president. Per National Public Radio:

“It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said. “Keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.”

That’s a shortsighted view that we all need to start moving on from. They simply answered the questions they were asked and wanted to use their powerful platform to bring awareness to issues in our country, and what a certain segment of the population has to go through.

Situations that a lot of us are, or will be, fortunate enough to not experience. And LeBron recently used this an opportunity to troll Ingraham, by producing a Showtime documentary series called “Shut Up and Dribble” which takes a look at athlete’s role in the present-day political atmosphere.

At the same time, it’s a bit of a double-standard when athletes are supposed to stay away from politics, but the president himself can get involved with the NFL and create havoc surrounding the anthem policy. The NFL has gone through two seasons with the anthem protest being at the forefront, and President Trump is anything but a fan of it.

At one of his rallies, per Bryan Armen Graham, Trump’s said:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’,” Trump said. “You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

It’s only fair that politicians stay out of the business os sports. It’s a private entity that should take care of their own problems and not have any unneeded complications from outside. You can’t have it both ways. Let the NFL handle the anthem protest controversy themselves if athletes aren’t allowed to speak out on the president.

This is a new day and age. Politics have infiltrated locker rooms and clubhouses. Athletes want to use their platform to bring about change (or attempt to) and/or awareness. Even the anthem protest, which was started by Colin Kaepernick, was the quarterback using his platform to bring light to social injustices.

Whether or not kneeling was the right strategy is another debate altogether. But one for sure is that the President has turned it into something much different and worse than Kaepernick’s initial intention. NFL players have countlessly stated that they aren’t disrespecting it, but wanting to bring change to social issues. To fair now, it’s time for them to do action.

But Athletes vs. the White House has been a common theme since Donald Trump took over office, with James spearheading it. His ‘bum’ response was in reply to Trump, who wanted to make it seem like he rescinded a White House invite to the Golden State Warriors, when in fact, the Warriors had already refused to visit after winning the 2017 NBA Finals. The president was just sensitive and wanted to shape public opinion.

And James is a citizen just like the rest of us all, so he has the right to express himself. And it’s not like it was anything expletive. It’s just because all the lights are on the superstar, that it gets blown up.

For those that say that “LeBron started it,” that means that we have lowered the standards to which we hold the President of the United States of America, and it’s ok for him to prioritize being ultra-sensitive and taking shots on social media like a 12-year-old. And taking shots at a man who, just last week,  founded a school for at-risk youths. He’s not acting like a president, never has, so the athletes don’t have to act like ‘just athletes’ either.

Athletes aren’t trying to get involved with the business of politics; they are just trying to make a social difference, but they view it as difficult under this current administration. Thus, they have to start at ‘the top’ because not much will be done without the ‘head’ willing to make changes.

Athletes vote, so they have the right to feel however they want to. Some will avoid political questions to avoid any issues, while some will take them on head-on because of their platform and they want to be heard.

Aaron Rodgers recently came out with his take on the LeBron vs. Trump situation. And this is not going to slow down anytime soon. Athletes will continue to be outspoken. The political atmosphere lends itself to that, and the media will continue to bring it up. Whether it’s right or wrong is another debate, but that’s just how things are now.

Featured Image via Flickr/cornstalker