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Finneran: When LeBron Speaks..

Friday, February 23, 2018


LeBron James

Don’t mess with Lebron.

And don’t mess with the Constitution.

Lebron James, an American citizen, is as free to speak his mind as anyone else in America. His right to do so is not negated by the sensitivities of President Trump or Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan. Nor is his right to do so foregone by the fact that he is a professional basketball player. If Tom Brady can offer opinions, then so can Lebron James. Neither one of them needs permission from anyone else. Let’s call it the First Amendment effect. It’s a glorious American freedom, to be enjoyed by all.

Perhaps you missed the controversy which erupted between Laura Ingraham, a talk radio host, and Lebron James, the world’s best basketball player. It seems that James and Kevin Durant, a fellow professional basketball player, offered some critical remarks as well as their embarrassment about Donald Trump’s stewardship of the country.

Beyond placing themselves squarely in the middle of half the American population, their remarks were no more critical of President Trump than those which every sentient American reads or hears every single day. The country is divided today in its opinions of the President.............as it was divided in its opinions of Messrs. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon et. al. You get the point. The country has always been divided in its opinions of our Presidents. It’s no big deal. It’s life. And trust me, President Trump already knows that the country is divided over him. He also knows that it goes with the territory.

Laura Ingraham is a smart, talented radio host. Yet here she is mistaken. She pounced on Lebron’s critique of the President as being beyond his skill set and she uttered the now infamous phrase “shut up and dribble”. It’s a risible attempt at ratings and a more risible attempt to tell an American citizen to know his place.

The fact that Ms. Ingraham is white and Mr. James is black adds to the social spice of the exchange. I suspect that Ms. Ingraham would quickly agree that our First Amendment freedoms are not contingent upon skin color, occupation, or receipt of an Ivy League degree. A high school student enjoys the same freedom to vent as a Nobel Prize winner. And no one else gets to ration that right or to curb that freedom to speak, or to write, or to opine.

Indeed, I believe that Ms. Ingraham has frequently vented about campus terrorists and cowardly administrators who routinely bully and shut down politically conservative speakers on too many college campuses. That she has done so in the service of the First Amendment is to her credit. Too many Americans cringe at “controversial” speech rather than listening and considering such speech. Of course, in today’s hyper politically correct environment any words beyond “good morning” are deemed offensive. Soon enough, even “good morning” will be labeled as intrusive deism. And the idiot professor who initiates the charge of deism will get a tenured position from which he or she can bully and brainwash the weak sheep of American campuses for years to come.

Ms. Ingraham has responded cleverly to the barrage of criticism hurled at her critique of Lebron’s remarks. She asks a racially loaded question and she simultaneously pursues an obvious ratings bonanza. How utterly American.

The racially loaded question was a simple substitution of principals where she posed the hypothetical question of two white professional basketball players expressing their embarrassment about President Obama’s stewardship of the nation and the likely league and public response to such an incident. Ms. Ingraham states that said white players would be drummed out of the league. Silly old me, I disagree. Most folks would assess it as a simple opinion, much like Lebron’s criticism of President Trump is seen as just an opinion. We’re all free to agree, to disagree, or to simply ignore others’ opinions.

As for the ratings bonanza maneuver, Ms. Ingraham has invited Lebron to come on her show. I hope that Lebron says “yes”. He’s an intelligent accomplished citizen who has enjoyed enormous and hard-earned success. And, as a white guy, I’d listen closely to his thoughts and opinions about the realities of growing up black in America as well as his critique of Presidents Trump and Obama. I’d listen closely to Ms. Ingraham as well. She’s as much a professional as Lebron and their exchanges might actually enlighten parts of the public realm.

Consider it a real-life example of the beauty of the First Amendment.

You listen, and you learn.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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