In her review of LeBron James' Showtime docu-series Shut Up and Dribble, which debuted Saturday night, Vulture.com writer Jen Chaney called it "a big ol’ middle finger to Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who uttered the words that give this mini-series its name." The program is produced by the social justice warrior James (shown wearing an "I can't breathe" shirt referencing Eric Garner who died in a 2014 altercation with Staten Island police) and Maverick Carter.
Chaney writes that the first in a three-part series rehashes the events of last February when James mocked President Donald Trump while he and Golden State's Kevin Durant were being chauffered around James' Akron, Ohio hometown. James said of President Trump: “The No. 1 person in America is someone who doesn’t understand the people and really doesn’t give a fuck about the people.” On the Fox News program Ingraham Angle, Laura Ingraham said no one should listen to the “ignorance” of someone paid to bounce a ball for a living, and “Keep the political commentary to yourself. Or as someone once said: Shut up and dribble.”
The series then pivots back to the 1950s and ’60s when African-American NBA superstars Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson spoke out about racial injustice. "They weren’t just told to shut up and dribble. They were told to shut up and dribble like the white players do," Chaney claimed.
Following the lead of current social justice warriors and media, Shut Up and Dribble criticizes retired Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan for using his celebrity to sell "lots of products but not to flex any political muscle. Shut Up and Dribble suggests that the 1990 North Carolina Senate race that African-American Democrat Harvey Gantt lost to conservative Republican Jesse Helms might have turned out differently if UNC-Chapel Hill’s favorite son had publicly endorsed Gantt."
The Chaney review says, "Shut Up and Dribble is clear about who its true heroes are. In the second and third episodes, it zeroes in on divisive moments that are still fresh memories, emphasizing the bravery of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the Denver Nugget who refused to stand during the National Anthem in 1996 because of the country’s history of oppression (Etan Thomas calls him 'the Kaepernick before Kaepernick') ... ." Thomas is an activist and retired NBA player.
Shut Up and Dribble is not just a way for James to have the last dunk on Ingraham, Chaney says. It's "a bigger-picture series airing at a deliberately timely moment," a few days before the midterm elections — "in an atmosphere where the context for athletes engaging in racial protest has gotten completely lost."
Chaney ends her review with advice on how to dispel criticism of athletes who speak out: "After watching this documentary, the next time you hear someone imply that LeBron or Steph Curry should just shut up and dribble, you’ll know the right response: Shut up and consider your basketball history."
CNN's Brian Lowry also wrote a review of Shut Up and Dribble, taking a similar harsh tone toward critics. He writes of the docu-series third chapter, which chronicles how the NBA took on a hip-hop culture and players were labeled as "thugs." It also deals with the racist remarks of L.A. Clippers' owner Donald Sterling, "the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; and President Obama's love of basketball, which forged a strong connection between the NBA and the White House during his presidency." Lowry says the pendulum has swung sharply backward with President Trump criticizing African-American athletes.
Like Chaney, Lowry closes his review with a stern warning to critics of the docu-series:
"With 'Shut Up and Dribble,' James and his collaborators are serving notice -- to Ingraham and everyone else -- that basketball's current generation of stars intend to use their platform for more than just postgame blather. While opponents can obviously reject the ideas, those who would try to cower or silence them, clearly, are playing a losing game."