If you were to ask me which of the more than 100 million active Twitter users is the most dangerous “tweep” to load 140 characters in the chamber, and equally the most dangerous person to construct a column, my answer would be Jason Whitlock.
And you’re reminded of that fact when you visit his Twitter page. The background image reads, as follows: “I speak truth to power. Black people think I’m a sellout. White people think I’m a racist. I think I’m too honest. My perspective is for people unafraid to think and willing to challenge their own biases. P.S. It also doesn’t hurt if you like to laugh.”
Perhaps the most outspoken sports media columnist in the young 21st century, Jason Whitlock is no stranger to controversy. His tenure at ESPN, for which he appeared on their network as well as contribute to the “Page 2” section of the network’s website, came to an end after trashing then-colleagues Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson in an online interview. The longtime Kansas City Star columnist (he left the paper in 2010) immediately latched onto AOL, and a year later, migrated to Fox Sports, where he has worked since.
And after a disparaging tweet that many deem to be of a racist nature, it’s surprising that he’s still on Fox Sports’ payroll at all.
It’s no secret that Twitter, if used improperly, could negatively impact a person’s career. Just this week, CNN personality Roland Martin – who I’m sure Jason has heard of – was suspended by the network for a tweet on Super Bowl Sunday – it was regarding an ad that ran during the big game – that promoted violence against gay people.
Two years ago, former major league pitcher Mike Bacsik – who has the dubious distinction of giving up a record-breaking home run to Barry Bonds – lost his job at Dallas sports radio station 1310 The Ticket after mockingly congratulating “all the dirty Mexicans in San Antonio” after the Spurs won a playoff game against the Mavericks.
And, of course, we know what happened to Gilbert Gottfried’s secondary job as the Aflac duck’s voice box last year.
Some of Whitlock’s tweets are unabashed head-scratchers – oh, I’m sorry, I guess I’m just one of those people that Whitlock would say is “afraid to think”. For instance, he has some racist agenda against the New England Patriots for the fact that they don’t hire enough white players. “Patriots/Belichick gonna let a brother get into the end zone tonight?,” he tweeted during the Patriots’ Monday night blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs on November 21. “The great white athleticism on the Patriots is a story media ignore.” (He even echoed these sentiments in a column as the Patriots prepared to play the Ravens in the AFC championship game.) Yet, not a word about the Patriots cutting Tiquan Underwood the day before the Super Bowl. No, Whitlock was too busy tweeting about the big barbecue he and his family threw down at Masterpiece Lounge on the eve of the Super Bowl. Oh, but he did find the time to block a follower “for stupidity” after commenting on retweeted feedback from a barbecuegoer who said the Masterpiece Lounge has “way better music than white people bars.”
Poor blocked tweep. Not “willing to challenge his own bias,” it looks like.
On Friday night, however, Jason Whitlock was willing to challenge decency – at the expense of Jeremy Lin.
You may be aware of the Linsanity movement. It started just after the end of the NFL season, and will keep many sports fans occupied until it likely ends when the Knicks either miss or are eliminated early from the playoffs, just in time for baseball season. And on Friday night, Lin and the Knicks hosted Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden.
To his credit, Whitlock actually sent out an honest tweet praising the Knicks point guard. “NBA has a real Tebow,” he tweeted after the Knicks defeated the Lakers, in a game in which Lin scored 38 points. “Jeremy Lin is legit! Great story! Amar’e and Melo should be embarrassed.”
But about twenty minutes later, it would be Jason Whitlock that should be embarrassed. He would follow up another pair of tweets about Lin with this gem:
“Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”
You know that disclaimer on Jason’s Twitter page, “White people think I’m a racist”? He’d be better off updating that to, “Anyone with a pulse and a brain knows I’m a racist.”
And I wonder if he thinks the part of the Twitter disclaimer that says, “P.S. It doesn’t hurt if you like to laugh” also applies to this one.
That was beyond insensitive. The tweet didn’t mention Lin by name, but it was obvious that since it came after two tweets referring to Lin, the subject who would deliver “a couple inches of pain” to “some lucky lady in NYC” would have to be Lin. Not only was it disgraceful, it was not necessary and not called for. You’d expect something like that on Twitter from a Favstar favorite. Not from a well-known sports journalist.
And it looks like his peers agree. “For someone whose entire writing schtick is based on stirring the racial pot, that was about the dumbest thing he could have said,” writes Larry Brown. “No matter how you view it, Whitlock’s credibility on racial issues just took a major hit.”
And Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo, who is part Asian, wonders, “Why does Whitlock have to interject himself into what was a great story free of controversy, no less with a comment that is obviously going to cause a firestorm? How you go from a feel good story to this massive fail of a joke is bewildering to me.”
So now, many are asking Whitlock to apologize for his tweet targeting Lin’s manhood – including the Asian American Journalists Association.
Good luck with that. While it would be the obvious thing to do, Whitlock won’t do it. And I have two theories.
First of all, here’s a portion of Whitlock’s comments regarding the firing of Don Imus in 1997 for referring to Rutgers women’s basketball players as “nappy-headed hos”: “[Imus] offered an apology. That should’ve been the end of this whole affair. Instead, it’s only the beginning. It’s an opportunity for [Vivian] Stringer, [Rev. Jesse] Jackson and [Rev. Al] Sharpton to step on victim platforms and elevate themselves and their agenda$.”
This is what Whitlock is afraid of. This is why Whitlock won’t man up and accept responsibility for his social media irresponsibility. He probably fears that it’ll trigger a chain reaction of sports columnists and media analysts with their pitchforks, demanding Fox Sports fire him. For a columnist that has toed the racism line in terms of black vs. white many times, this foray into Asian insensitivity completely obliterates the line. He’d be smart to issue an apology, but then again, if he were smart, he wouldn’t have taken a shot at Jeremy Lin’s package in the first place.
And secondly… He still owes an apology to Steven Tyler, whose rendition of the National Anthem prior to the AFC Championship Game “far more obscene than Janet Jackson’s titty.”
But I digress. Make no mistake, what Whitlock is doing by staying mum on this issue is delaying the inevitable – which would be his eventual termination from Fox Sports. In 2006, Steve Lyons was part of a three-man booth calling a playoff game between the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland A’s. Guest analyst Lou Piniella commented on how expecting increased run production from a certain player would be akin to “finding a wallet on a Friday night, and looking for one on Sunday or Monday, too.” Shortly later, while discussing another subject, Piniella was speaking in Spanish. Upon play-by-play analyst Thom Brenneman noting Piniella’s being “bilingual,” Lyons responded: “Lou’s habla-ing some Español there, and I’m still looking for my wallet. I don’t understand him, and I don’t want to sit close to him now.”
After the game, Lyons was fired. A Fox Sports spokesman, Lou D’Ermilio, confirmed his dismissal was “for making comments on the air that the company found inappropriate.”
And just last year, Fox Sports canceled “The College Experiment,” after a segment filmed at USC appeared to mock Asian students. The same Fox Sports spokesman, Lou D’Ermilio, said the segment was “clearly offensive and inconsistent with the standards Fox Sports believes in,” and goes on to ensure that similar incidents are “not repeated in the future.”
Well, guess what, Lou? It’s the future, and one of your big name sports journalists screwed up big-time.
Surely, Fox Sports deems Jason Whitlock’s disparaging tweet equally “offensive” and “inappropriate”. It was not only insulting to Jeremy Lin, but all Asians in particular.
And it sure goes against your promise not to “repeat” such instances that are “inconsistent with the standards Fox Sports believes in.”
So, based on the actions that Fox Sports has taken in similar circumstances, combined with Jason Whitlock’s own personal track record, I’ll only say it’s not looking too good for him right now.
It’s only a matter of time until Fox Sports gives him a taste of his own medicine – and “speak truth to power.”
Or, if you prefer – ignorance.
UPDATE: Within a half-hour of my posting this article, Whitlock did issue an apology for the Jeremy Lin joke via Twitter. My thoughts? Too little, and possibly too late…
Whitlock claims he got “caught up in the excitement” of Linsanity. In doing so, he “gave into another part of my personality — my immature, sophomoric comedic nature… I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I’m truly sorry.”
In the same apology, he writes: “I still want to be a standup comedian.”
I’m sure you’ll find plenty of time to look into that – when Fox Sports fires you.