LeBron Declines One-on-One Challenge w Laura Ingraham

NBA superstar LeBron James took it upon himself to blast President Trump, in a video. Conservative Fox News talk show host Laura Ingraham criticized him. Then, of course, she had to catch hell as a supposed “racist.” As a result, she invited LeBron onto her show to talk about it.  What follows is my commentary and discussion on my Facebook page with two people who disagree.


If Tough-Talkin’ Big Man LeBron James is so sure of his opinions, why not take up Laura Ingraham’s challenge to face her one-on-one on her show? But virtually all liberal pundits and politicians are deathly afraid to appear on any show on Fox News.

Heaven forbid that a liberal and a conservative sit down face-to-face and talk to each other and actually try to achieve some common ground and meeting of the minds (which I fully believe is entirely possible). The sky would fall down. Hats off to rare exception Rob Reiner, who recently was on Laura’s show, and perfectly cordial, though very far left. He even called Laura “smart as hell.”

No! We can’t have that! It’s much easier to bring up the standard liberal cry of “racist!” whenever any conservative is involved. So now Laura is in the KKK, too. Um, guys: it was Sen. Robert Byrd (Democrat) who was in the KKK.

And so the incredible continuing Balkanization of America continues full force.

Even politically liberal and conservative Catholics and fellow pro-lifers can’t / won’t talk to each other anymore, by and large. We’d much rather stay in our cocoons and fortresses and echo chambers with a bunch of people who think exactly as we do: like a bunch of clones or parrots.

Granted, most of us hang out with like-minded people, for the most part. It’s only natural (birds of a feather). I don’t condemn that. I only condemn exclusively hanging out with others of the same opinion, along with demonizing any who aren’t in our own circle.

For the record, though I don’t think there was any racism at all in Laura’s comments, I do think she could have made the valid point more elegantly, and not in a way that was destined to cause a big ruckus in the present hyper-polemical / McCarthyite climate. I also thought the remarks about LeBron only having a high school education were quite unnecessary and unhelpful (destined to be misinterpreted).

But it’s tough to be a conservative and one who fearlessly expresses what she believes, as Laura does. We conservatives are simply not allowed to express our opinions in a vigorous, confident way. We’re supposed to not make any waves. If we dare to express our opinions, watch out!

Adrian Urias (words in blue henceforth) Both are stupid. Why are we feeding into this?

I think one was stupid. The other cold have expressed things more charitably and effectively. But they could find a lot of common ground if one of the two would actually be willing to talk about it face-to-face.

Why should they? Is he a pundit? No, so why are we even worried? If Laura gave her opinion on whether Lebron was goat shed enter a heated fray, but no one would care because shes not a sports commentator. We just leave her be with her opinions. So why jump on Lebron? I think the answer is obvious: hes an easy target for two minutes of hate.

It’s not “hate” (the left’s conclusion about everything). It was a simple observation that athletes should stick to sports: that that is what we admire them for. Most people who watch sports want to get away from politics and the real world: a bit of entertainment and escape. That’s why people were so disgusted with the NFL anthem routine.

The reason to talk is exactly what I said: to find common ground and a meeting of the minds, and for both sides to see that “the other guy” is not the devil incarnate.

But no one wants to talk anymore if they disagree about anything. Your response proves my point: you’re against them talking, as useless and irrelevant. I don’t think that at all. I think it would be wonderful. Have him on for an entire hour . . .

Imagine a marriage, where whenever there is a disagreement, one or both parties refuse to talk about it. That will not be a happy marriage. As a society, we need to talk to each other: left and right, black and white, Hispanic and white, Hispanic and black, Jewish and Christian, different classes and ethnic groups, Christian and Muslim, men and women, young and old, theist and atheist, urban and rural, heterosexual and homosexual . . .

But more and more, people refuse to do that. So we become more divided, more suspicious, and no one but the devil wins.

I agree athletes should stick to sports. Why then advocate for an entire hour with Laura? lol You can’t have your cake and eat it too man. 

Besides, Lebron didn’t make this comment on courtside. If I recall, he was in a car with Durant and it was just a convo between them and he was expressing an opinion, one that had nothing to do with sports and is ultimately not relevant given his status. If we really want to keep these two separate, the correct decision would have been to ignore it and move on. But that’s not what Laura wants. She wants ratings and she wants you to make it a bigger deal than it is. You’ve been had, dude.

Because now there is a conflict, and mature adults talk through conflicts in order to resolve them. And conservatives and liberals should talk because they rarely do so.

Again, the motive is not hatred and ranting. Her motive and point of view was being fed up with people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, putting down conservatives and pro-lifers and Christians and (as here) the President. Athletes do it; every awards show now does it (and so I never watch them anymore, since I refuse to be preached at and have my intelligence relentlessly insulted).

This goes far beyond politics or particular political positions. I would be just as disgusted if it were conservative ranting and trying to take over sports and Hollywood, etc. But it happens to be liberals, because this is what liberals do (especially out-of-power liberals). It’s out-of-place and inappropriate ranting and preaching.

Laura is contending (and I agree), in effect: “yes, politics should be kept out of sports and many other areas of entertainment, But if liberals insist on injecting their views into these things, then let’s sit down together and engage in a real, honest, open conversation about reality, and get to know each other on a one-on-one human level. It’s fundamentally dumb and unfair to only have one view expressed (i.e., liberalism).”

The point is to resolve the conflict. It need not be. There are two legitimate points of view that can be discussed as adults. And it would be great for the followers of both sides.

Jon Curry Dave, don’t you think you’re being a bit hard on a guy for not being interested in a public verbal debate? That’s been your stance your entire apologetics career. You say it is not your forte, and that is fine. Laura Ingraham does this every day, LeBron has other areas of expertise, you can’t blame him for not wanting to debate her verbally and publicly.

Anyone can simply talk to someone else. Are you saying that LeBron has never been on a talk show? Of course he has. But it was always “safe territory.” As soon as it’s a dreaded conservative, all of a sudden he’s speechless?

Moreover, it’s not just whether LeBron may not have an ability to be in a debate situation. It’s the fact of widespread liberal unwillingness to debate those different from themselves. To do that would be granting and assuming that the other person isn’t a moron, and that goes against liberal talking points. Much easier to yell “racist” (or any other of the usual epithets) than to talk.

You personally know that I went to your group [back in 2010] by myself: me and 11 atheists and agnostics in a room. So although I prefer not to just stand and lecture, and thus, did the Q&A format, I was still willing to talk to people very different from myself. And I give you credit for doing the same at my house (twice, I believe).

Dave, you sat with us atheists and had a private conversation. You are not interested in public debate with anyone, me or anyone else. You also have had Q&A type things done that were published. I think you’ve also done radio interviews with friendly hosts. You’ve done the safe things and declined public debate. Pretty much the same as Lebron, I’m surprised you are so hard on him for it.

Whether oral or written exchanges are superior, is a methodological dispute. I argue at length for the superiority of written debate. I think oral debates in public (at least those between Catholics and anti-Catholics) are carnivals and circuses: for the most part unworthy of serious thinkers (though there are various imaginable and actual exceptions). I am in favor of talking to anyone who is different from myself. My only requirement is that it is civil and honest.

You say I have declined “public debate.” I have not, at all. I have over 700 debates posted online, including scores of them with hostile atheists, hostile anti-Catholics, hostile Catholic extremist reactionaries; you name it. I had one perfectly cordial exchange with a self-described “transgender atheist Satanist”.

Thus I am not against folks who are different exchanging ideas at all. If I had a transcript of the discussion we had in your group when I first appeared there, I would publish every word of it on my blog.

You yourself have borne witness to what I am trying to accomplish, in kind words on your blog about me some years back:

I really appreciate Dave. He’s one of those people that is able to sit down and disagree with me strongly, but do it in a way that makes for productive and friendly dialogue. Not all Christians can do this, nor can all skeptics.

And I say the same about you: if one can ever get you to discuss something besides far-left politics.

And though I oppose “oral debates” on principle; nevertheless I engaged in two live chats (both in “enemy territory” — hardly “safe”) with anti-Catholics James White (the leading one today) and Matt Slick, who runs the large CARM forum. The first was a live (written) chat in White’s chat room. I immediately published a complete transcript. White never has.

The second was a spoken talk on PalTalk with Matt Slick. I have no transcript of that, but I have a post describing what happened, and I have a further written exchange with Matt published. I think I did very well in both encounters. White has never been willing to debate in that format again, even though I offered him extremely generous handicaps if he would. And Slick opted out of a second planned PalTalk exchange, that we were trying to negotiate. You can bring the horse to the stream but you can’t make it drink . . .

I once had a huge debate in the CARM forum with Protestant apologist Jason Engwer, on the Church fathers and the issue of authority. He split in the middle of it, just as White disappeared into the ether the night of our live chat, and in fact, the original planned debate was with another Reformed guy who gave up in the middle as well, causing White to jump in and try to save the day for the Protestants.

Thus, I have been true to my principles all the way through. I’ll interact with anyone of a different persuasion. Most political liberals won’t, when it comes to conservatives. And this is why only a select few of them have guts enough to appear on any Fox News talk shows. Juan Williams ought to be given a Nobel Peace Prize for doing it regularly there as a Fox staff guy, and being a perfect likable gentleman the whole time. Bob Beckel (when sober) was also great.

Okay; what I meant to say, and I think you know this, is that you are not willing to participate in a verbal public debate. That’s what Lebron is declining, the same thing you also decline. Yes, you’ve done live chats, which are typed. It’s not the same as a verbal debate. Lebron could be declining for the same reasons you do.

Okay, if we grant that LeBron shouldn’t appear because it’s stacked: high school education against the lawyer, or experienced talk-show host against an NBA player; whatever, I think there are several intermediate alternatives to that, that almost certainly won’t happen:

1) he could talk privately with her, and simply report that progress in mutual misunderstanding was made. That would shut up the media buzz.

2) he could appear with someone who was more qualified to do a public debate with an experienced debater like Laura.

3) he could require editorial consent of a taped program, to avoid the dangers of bombing out live.

4) other NBA players who are considered intellectuals, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who also blasts Trump) could appear in his stead.

5) there could be an all-athlete group discussion with conservatives (if any can be found) and liberals including LeBron. Then it would be an in-house fight. But according to the commentary last night at the All-Star Game, liberalism is the only opinion that could possibly be held by an NBA player. I find that downright Orwellian or McCarthyite, and it’s frightening.

6) LeBron and Laura could do an actual written dialogue where there is interaction with each other: subject to mutual approval and published in both conservative and liberal venues.

7) #6 could be done with LeBron and others (proclaimed intellectual titans like Kareem) if he prefers, and others in addition to Laura, and/or including folks who see both sides and come down somewhere in the middle.

Etc., etc., etc.

Any of these sensible ideas could be done, to try to bring people together, rather than further apart, and to actually engage the issue rather than shout at and mock each other, but they almost certainly won’t.

And they won’t happen (if they don’t, which I would bet big money on) because — I submit, as the most plausible and demonstrable reason — liberals despise conservatives and also lack confidence in the intellectual solidity of their own opinions.

Dave, there’s all kinds of things Lebron could do, there are all kinds of things you could do. But sometimes you conclude it’s not worth it. Sometimes you conclude you’re dealing with a person that is not intellectually honest. Sometimes you conclude that with your busy schedule the effort is not worth it. There are all kinds of reasons a person might decline a public VERBAL confrontation and conclude that it’s not worth pursuing alternatives. I think you have to accept that there can be good reasons for someone to decline to engage. If anyone should understand that I would think it would be you.

Liberals (generalizing) may not always be afraid to talk to conservatives, but they definitely often harbor strong prejudices towards them, which would preclude face-to-face discussion. We don’t do that with folks whom we despise, and that’s the case here, and very often is. So it’s disdain for sure, and quite possibly fear of being shown to be prejudiced (against conservatives) and not in possession of relevant facts, which also ties into human pride.

So your position is that they absolutely should not talk under any circumstances: that it is a bad thing — to be avoided at all costs — to talk to someone who believes differently than we do? It’s your position that LeBron absolutely should not communicate with Laura Ingraham in person or in writing, besides the mutual swipes online?

Or if you agree that it’s good in the abstract, what do you think is LeBron’s excellent reason to not appear on Laura’s show, and to not even do any of the alternate things I suggested?

To me, it’s self-evident: if there is conflict between people, they should talk and work it out. In this case, there are massive misunderstandings involved, that I think can be largely cleared-up.

It’s certainly not my position that Lebron absolutely should not talk to Ingraham. He should talk to her if he wants to. If he doesn’t want to that’s perfectly fine. That’s his choice. Maybe he has disdain for her. Maybe he regards her as a sophist. A person that is not intellectually honest. Maybe he doesn’t want to give her a platform. Maybe he doesn’t like participating in verbal public debates, particularly with a lawyer that does this for a living. He’s a basketball player and he understands he’s not playing to his strength in a situation like this.

Could be any of these reasons, a combination of them, or other reasons we haven’t considered. Doesn’t matter. It’s his choice. We should not be calling anyone a coward for making this choice. I would not do that to you, I think you shouldn’t do it to him.

We can agree it would be good if they talked. Many liberals are scared to interact with informed conservatives. Perhaps LeBron is not. I can’t read his mind. But it’s a good chance that he is. And I’ll be watching to see if any NBA player has the guts to have a real conversation about this, with a supposed “evil, wicked, racist” conservative.

I’ll remove the outright assertion of cowardice from my paper, since it is true that we can’t / don’t know for sure. But the contempt is pretty certain. Laura said he was a great basketball player. He said nothing good about her, and she was called racist by some. Nonsense . . .


Sally Jenkins, sports columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a very thoughtful and helpful editorial for that newspaper, in which she called for open discussion between the two, just as I have. She leaned towards LeBron, but she was quite fair, and the entire column (including criticisms of Laura Ingraham) was a breath of fresh air in the current toxic, hyper-polarized environment. Here are some key excerpts:

[A] real conversation between these two smart, opposite-spectrum people might be useful, as opposed to the default-button insults they’ve traded, which are so empty, redundant and overworked that they leave your brain feeling like a dust bowl.

The white-lady conservative commentator took issue with a black NBA superstar’s liberal political views by attacking his intelligence and his message to kids, and told him to “shut up and dribble.” Really? When is the last time Ingraham refreshed her thought or material? As for James, his critique of Trumpism includes a platitudinal invocation of “the People,” and his chief retort to Ingraham is that she’s a minor celebrity compared to him and he refuses to shut up because, “I mean too much to society.” Honestly? Measurable narcissism is hardly a measure of social import. . . .

James and Ingraham are capable of a more interesting conversation than they are showing, and you wish they would have it: Ingraham has invited him on her show, and it wouldn’t be beneath him to accept. It would be a heck of a prize fight, and they might even discover that they have a little more in common than they suspected. Ingraham is not some wilting vanilla creature of privilege, though she was educated at Dartmouth. Her mother was a waitress, and her grandparents were Polish immigrants. She’s a single working mother with three small children — a daughter she adopted from Guatemala and two sons from Russia. Whatever you think of her views, she knows what it is to be an outsider, and she’s got guts: she had to have them to break through the all-male shock jock culture of radio, and build an audience in the many millions, an audience James seems ignorant or dismissive of.

As for James, he is the son of a single working mother, a retail clerk who had him when she was a teenager. The circumstances of his childhood in Akron are well known (except to Ingraham, apparently): They had to move a dozen times when he was between the ages of 5 and 8 because their home was condemned, and James missed almost half of the fourth grade. Between the urgency of their problems and the immediacy of his talent, the NBA straight out of high school was the only option. “Being a mother — it’s the toughest job in the world,” James has said. “It’s tougher than being a professional athlete or being the president.” . . .

James and Ingraham could have a whale of an interesting conversation about this, if they chose not to write each other off. . . .

It would be a fascinating reversal if, instead of baiting and trading taunts, James went on her show and elevated the conversation. . . .

So why doesn’t he? I think it is because of the dripping disdain that liberals have for conservatives (thus making them utterly unwilling to talk to them as equals). Anyone is welcome to come up with a more plausible explanation.


Here is a further exchange with one H Wilzart from the combox of this post:


I am a big admirer of your posts and Books (I’ve ordered many online and read them usefully)–but not this one.

This is what I understood from you and the other commentators:

1. Because Lebron expressed his opinion about President Trump he is somehow obligated to appear on the Ingraham show.

2. Lebron is afraid to express [and] discuss his opinion. And you deduce that because he expressed and discussed his opinion

3. Because he is an athlete, he should not be commenting on public affairs, as if he is not an American or been disenfranchised.

4. Because he has only a high school education he is not worthy of disagreeing with Laura Ingraham or the rest of us.

I find the above points illogical, envious, and might well be racist.

Here is my reply:

Thanks for reading my stuff and buying my books. I really appreciate that. Let me reply if I may.

#1: not obligated, but I’m saying (and so is a liberal columnist with the Washington Post) that it would be good and helpful for all involved if he would do so. I’m all for talking through differences. I always have been, and anyone who reads my posts know that that is the case. It’s good to talk with people we disagree with. We desperately need that today. I wrote this because it is so sad and frustrating to me that such a thing will likely never happen. And I wish so much that it could be different. How many conflicts and misunderstandings could be resolved if only people (like happily married couples) would be willing to work through things.

#2 He appears unwilling (thus possibly afraid, by deduction) to discuss it with Laura on her show. Why does it almost always have to be that way, with liberals, as regards conservatives? You tell me. I’d love to know. To me this widespread reluctance clearly exhibits either 1) contempt and disdain towards conservatives, and/or 2) fear and inability, and/or 3) a closed mind. If one is confident in their opinions, and open-minded, they will discuss them with a critic.

#3 I don’t believe that is the thought from Laura or most people (including myself) who have criticized, e.g., the National Anthem kneeling in the NFL. What we’re saying is that it ought not be injected into sports itself, which ought to be apolitical (and indeed, one of its glories up till recently was that it was precisely that). Now, one may say that the original comments were on You Tube and not after a game, etc. But it has now quickly been brought into the NBA itself. When I watched the pregame and the All-Star game last night (I’m a huge NBA fan), I had to be subjected to many remarks on the topic, including during the game from the commentators: all from a 100% liberal opinion, as if no other could possibly exist. If they’re all so cocksure of their opinions; couldn’t possibly be wrong, let them talk to a conservative like Laura and be truly tolerant of an open mind and diversity for a change (that liberals always talk about but rarely consistently practice).

Some of the conservative critique is that yes, athletes may speak their minds like anyone else, but we expect a rudimentary amount of respect for American institutions. Don’t kneel during the National Anthem. Don’t talk about the President as if he is a moron or absolute idiot. Go to the ceremonies at the White House. Everyone knows that they are not based on political agreement. It’s the national love of sports and honoring it. It’s apolitical. But not so today: teams refuse to go to the White House because they believe the hogwash that Trump is a white supremacist. We’re not opposing the right of liberalism per se to express itself; but we ask that it be done with a rudimentary amount of civility and substance and awareness that it is not the only view that a good, honest person could possibly have.

If indeed someone expressed exactly what you say here, in a sweeping way, of course I would disagree with it, and agree with you.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that when an athlete dares to express a more traditional or conservative opinion (such as Tim Tebow praying on the field and making gestures), he was roundly mocked and insulted. Why is it that he couldn’t express his view? It’s a double standard: all liberalism all the time is great; even one instance of conservatism and outward Christian faith must be laughed to scorn.

I noted recently how Vice President Pence was mocked on The View by Joy Behar because he believes that God can talk to him. Then I happened to see an interview with Oprah Winfrey, where she said she won’t run for President because she hasn’t heard God tell her to do so, and assumes that He would do so if she was supposed to run. Pence is considered mentally ill; Oprah expresses the same exact thing and that’s wonderful (no one’s mocking it in front-page news) and she has the highest integrity. What’s the difference? Well, only that she’s a liberal and Pence ain’t. Double standard!

#4 I agree with this and said so in my paper. But it’s not racist because it has nothing to do with race. It’s an observation about lack of education. I thought it was unnecessary and stupid, and can see why LeBron was offended, and why anyone would be, and why they might consider it condescending. But it’s not racist.

I have a feeling that Laura Ingraham will clarify many things on her show tonight [I am writing this on 2-19-18], and may perhaps at least partially apologize. And I hope to high heaven that some liberal in this world will have the open-mindedness and guts to appear on her show, if LeBron won’t: any NBA player or athlete at all, or anyone who has raked Laura over the coals about this.


Photo credit: LeBron James (4-28-07), photographed by Keith Allison [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]


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