Why Zlatan Got it Wrong About LeBron

Visit our partner's Olybet website for more action.

At this point, this column amounts to piling on, but I'm going to do it anyway.

In case you missed it, Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a swipe at LeBron James's activism, stating, 

"[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."

These statements are puzzling on a couple of fronts. For one, I'm not sure what Ibrahimovic hoped to accomplish with his remark — that LeBron would just stop is activism-related activities?

But, let's give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume he was simply answering a question he was asked. Of course, he is entitled to his opinion.

But what's even more puzzling is that Ibrahimovic is no stranger to altruism. According to Wikipedia, Ibrahimović paid $51,000 to send the Swedish national football team for the intellectually disabled to the INAS World Football Championships in Brazil and also lifted his shirt after a goal to reveal a (temporary) tattoo revealing the names of 50 people suffering from hunger around the world, in a gesture to raise awareness for famine.

That last bit, in particular, is 100% using your fame in order to raise awareness for a cause. How is that any different from what LeBron is doing?

I guess the answer is that James takes to twitter to make political points, and he does in interviews, as well, and that's different from charitable giving.  

I don't pretend to be inside Ibrahimovic's head, and I don't know know whether, in his heart of hearts, he is more left-leaning or more right-leaning, but I have noticed that anytime someone on Twitter tells a sports figure to "stick to sports," it not out of some high-minded "don't abuse your high visibility" ethos, it's simply because they don't agree with the stance the sports figure is taking.

It's easy enough to prove. Just look for "stick to sports" on Twitter, and when you find it said in earnest, the scolder a) never sticks to sports themselves, or dentistry or whatever their vocation is and b) they always have the opposite viewpoint of the sports figure.

Still, I am willing to give Ibrahimovic the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he is only concerned that people "do the category you do."

The problem with that, and with only politicians politicking, is it regards politics as just another profession. It isn't. Politicians, put simply, get to be in charge. They are policy-setting authority figures. Unless you believe in authoritarian dictatorships, you probably believe somewhat in governance necessarily relying on the consent of the governed.

Indeed, unlike soccer players or pilots or dancers, you probably do not want someone who has dreamed of being a politician since they were a kid in charge, you know what I mean? It's just very, very different.

Finally, if LeBron using his stature to express his opinion is a great injustice to Joe Insurance Adjuster who has only four people who listen to him, well, the alternative to that is who gets to decide who is greenlit to speak their mind and who isn't. So, famous athletes shouldn't. I assume actors shouldn't either. So who should? Politicians only? Letting them do all the talking and shaping the narrative kind of interferes with that whole "consent of the governed" thing again.

Finally, we are all adults here. If I'm a zombie voting for Democrats because LeBron says to, well, that's on me, isn't it? Aren't most people capable of thinking to themselves despite hearing a contrary opinion? If LeBron should shut up lest he influences others, isn't that kind of infantilizing to others?

Speaking of shutting up, it's now time for me to do that.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site