You have likely heard about the exchanges between NBA players Lebron James and Kevin Durant and Laura Ingraham of Fox News. You might even be on the side of these NBA players, as well as other celebrities that have expressed their political opinions, and are willing to defend their right to free speech. First off, let’s get one thing straight: neither Ingraham, nor Fox News, nor conservatives, in any way, even remotely disrespected the First Amendment and its clause about free speech. They never proposed or pursued any action that would obstruct James’s or Durant’s ability to criticize Trump. In actuality, she was exercising her Constitutional right as well. Disagreement is not just a byproduct of the First Amendment. Disagreement, political or general, is the basis on which the founders established free speech. This point eludes the left far too often, as they are eager to say things like, “The same people who want to protect the Second Amendment aren’t letting others exercise their First.” This notion is asinine.
Why is it then that conservatives are especially annoyed when professional athletes speak on politics? It is because their opinions are inherently perceived as superior, for no reason at all. Americans are passionate about sports, and look up to professional athletes. So, when Lebron James, who is arguably the best basketball player in history, says something critical about Trump or furthers the idea of white privilege, people perceive his opinion as more deserving of recognition than the average person. Why? Because Lebron James is an elite basketball player. Most athletes, as it turns out, are out of touch with the everyday American and are generally misinformed about politics. Even so, they are seen as authority figures in the realm of politics. This is also true for Hollywood and other celebrities who use their fame to advance a personal agenda.
This category of people whose political opinions receive more attention than they deserve has expanded in recent weeks to include children, specifically those that survived the Parkland school shooting. Pushing for gun control, they rip the NRA and the Republican Party, and the left wing media paints them as heroic activists. Of course, teenagers can have political opinions. They have the right to protest. Youth involvement in politics is extremely beneficial to American society. But, these teenagers’ beliefs about restricting gun ownership should not be viewed with more importance because of the recent tragedy. As Ben Shapiro puts it, that experience did not make these children experts on policy. It made them experts on suffering.
Political and rhetorical statements should be assessed accordingly based on their substance, not who says it, whether it’s a professional athlete, Hollywood actor, or teenager in the media spotlight in the aftermath of a school shooting. These people are highly skilled and experienced in something, like sports or acting. Or, like in the case of school shooting survivors, they have tragic stories to tell the world. However, this doesn’t transfer into political expertise and their opinions should not be glorified. Any policy proposal should be supported by sufficient reasoning and statistics. Being spoken from the mouth of someone famous isn’t enough.