Note: The below story contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Ted Lasso. If you haven’t watched it yet, go do that, have a good heartfelt cry, and then come back and read this.
In this week’s episode of Ted Lasso, “Do the Right-est Thing,” Sam Obisanya is faced with a moral conundrum: Support and work for team sponsor Dubai Air, or stand up to its parent company and protest their destructive oil drilling in his home country, Nigeria. Spurred on by his dad and the support of his teammates, he ultimately chooses the latter, tearing the Dubai Air logo from his AFC Richmond jersey.
But where did that story come from, and what does Toheeb Jimoh, who plays Obisanya, think of the notion that athletes should, as vile commentator Laura Ingraham once told LeBron James, “shut up and dribble?” In the video interview below, he tells The A.V. Club that the show’s writers came to him with the idea, saying “Joe Kelly, one of the lead writers, really took point. Joe and Jason [Sudeikis] actually really took pride in touching base with me and making sure that I was cool with anything that was happening.” Jimoh says Kelly and Sudeikis, “asked me if I had any ideas and let me know the research that they had done, because there have been huge disputes with oil companies in certain regions in Nigeria.” He continues, “It’s not just a story that people made up. It’s something that’s actually happening. We just wanted to shed some light on it.”
On the topic of “shut up and dribble” Jimoh is unequivocal, saying, “I’m really proud of the athletes who like to speak up and take a stand. I feel like you all have a responsibility to do that if you’re in the public eye, to use your platform to shed light on certain issues, especially if it’s affecting the communities that you’re a part of.”
You can watch more of Jimoh’s thoughts on the topic in the video above, as well as find out co-star Cristo Fernandez’s thoughts on why, for him, football really is life.
You can read more about what the oil companies are doing in the Niger delta in this fascinating New York Times piece, “The Fisherwoman, Chevron, And The Leaking Pipe.” New episodes of Ted Lasso drop every Friday on Apple TV+.