All That and a Bag of Mail

It has been a busy week for Outkick, the most listened to and downloaded week in the history of the site, so thanks for that. This month has also been the most listened to, read, watched and consumed month in the history of Outkick. So everything has been a total whirlwind.

This morning that continued when Politico dropped a 5k word profile piece on me which you can read here.

Spoiler alert, I’m alt right and all of you who like me are racist, sexist morons.

It’s a lazy thesis unsupported by evidence and I’d hoped for a more interesting piece, but all publicity that doens’t threaten jail time is good publicity so welcome to any of you who are visiting Outkick for the first time.

At 1:30 et today I’m going to do a special Outkick the Show with Brett Favre as our guest so you can look forward to that.

With that in mind, let’s go ahead and dive into the mailbag.

Jeff C. writes:

“I would love to hear your take on the way I’m thinking on the NFL protests. I call myself a radical moderate, just like you, and point out the negatives in both left and right thinking. I do not care at all who sits, stands or kneels for the anthem. I am watching the games because I love football.

This is why I think that the people who are cancelling their NFL redzone packages are showing the dreaded faux outrage. Do these people really get that upset about the players kneeling? If you absolutely love football there’s no way a few players kneeling triggers you so much that you can’t watch the game.

Maybe I am in the minority, but a protest against “racial injustice” isn’t going to keep me from cancelling my subscription and stop watching the NFL altogether. I would love to hear your thoughts.”

We got a ton of questions about the NFL protest, but I’m using this one as a jumping off point because I got quite a few similar statements on Twitter about the protest and the response to the protest.

Let’s start here — the first amendment is a two way street. The players have a right to make their political statements — although I do think most are overlooking how often political statements are made at work in a uniform — and then fans and owners and media have a right to react to that statement as well.

And if you completely disagree with a company or prominent employee’s stance on politics choosing to not spend your money with that company is the exact opposite of faux rage, it’s firing back with your own first amendment speech and putting your money where your mouth is. To me faux rage is outrage on social media that is fake and unsupported by any tangible action other than angry Tweets or Facebok posts. Changing your behavior,either in economic or leisure pursuits, is a tangible act, the exact opposite of faux rage.

Now, personally, I’m not going to change my behavior over the protests, but that’s because I’d keep watching the NFL even if the entire Tennessee Titans franchise came out in favor of ISIS. I’m a Titans season ticket holder and I completely disagreed with the team’s decision not to run out onto the field, but I’m not going to burn my tickets or stop watching games. (I’ve already paid for them. That would be the equivalent of burning a pile of money).

If anything, you can call me a hypocrite here. I’m not doing anything at all even though I disagree with the decisions of my favorite team. The fans deciding to cancel their NFL Sunday Ticket or turning off NFL games are putting their money where their mouth is, I’m not.

Ultimately there were five principal actors in this NFL anthem dispute: Donald Trump, the players, the owners, the fans, and the TV networks. Everyone but Donald Trump loses in a big way in this dispute. Trump serves red meat to his fan base which all agrees with him that players should stand for the national anthem and he manages to even grab the majority on a political issue, with Americans as a whole agreeing with him by a three to one margin.

Was Trump intentionally focusing on this issue to distract from health care reform failing, his new travel ban being introduced and the release of his tax plan? Potentially. Because it definitely soaked up all the attention in the political atmosphere.

Meanwhile the players, owners, and TV partners all get crushed here. I’m going to put this in bold because it’s 100% true — THE NFL DOESN’T NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN POLITICS.

Walk into any NFL stadium in America and the fans in there voted for Donald Trump. Football fans vote Republican, this has been well established time after time in research. Liberals tend not to like college football or the NFL. The players, to the extent they voted, probably did not vote for Trump.

This means there’s a profound disconnect between the talent, the players, and the people who pay their salaries, the fans. So long as the players are not overtly political that disconnect doesn’t matter. But the moment the players make their political beliefs known, many fans, who may well have voted for Donald Trump, see their football fandom as directly subsidizing political speech they disagree with.

And that’s not going to make them happy at all.

Most will just quietly seethe and not take any action, but many will feel compelled to act out.

The easiest analogy for me here is the Dixie Chicks. Remember that the Dixie Chicks went overseas and ripped George W. Bush. The result was their fan base revolted against them. Prior to those statements, the disconnect between the Dixie Chicks and their fan base didn’t matter. Because the Dixie Chicks weren’t a political force. But the minute they entered the political arena their fans felt compelled to fire back with their own speech, and bury the Dixie Chicks for having such different political opinions than the people who made them rich.

To me it’s a perfect analogy with the NFL. The talent, the Dixie Chicks and the the NFL players, have profoundly different political beliefs than the fans who support their work. So long as politics isn’t involved, that’s fine. But the minute you go political the fans voice their displeasure and your business becomes threatened.

Now the average NFL player probably doesn’t spend much time thinking about how he gets paid or where the money for his paycheck comes from. That’s not uncommon, most people think like employees, not business owners, but the NFL owners have to see this fan revolt and know, regardless of their own politics, that this is awful for business. Which is why I suspect this protest will get reigned in a great deal this coming weekend.

But if it doesn’t, or god forbid, if it grows, the NFL is in for a world of hurt.

It’s just bad business to alienate your base, and make no mistake about it, Republican voters are the base of football fans in America.

Finally, on the protests, the players lack a coherent goal and they are protesting in a way that alienates anyone they might be attempting to persuade into becoming an ally. Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest was against racist police killing black people. He wanted those police brought to justice and for police not to get away with committing crimes. Well, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, were already doing exactly that, conducting federal civil rights investigations to ensure that killer cops weren’t escaping justice.

I don’t know if Obama just feared making Kaepernick look bad or what, but Obama could have easily pointed that while he appreciated Kaepernick’s “protest” that the federal government was already doing their own federal investigations of police shootings and doing exactly what Kaepernick was requesting. Essentially Kaepernick’s protest was the equivalent of a guy going into McDonald’s at 11:30 AM and taking a knee to demand breakfast be served all day long only to have the McDonald’s manager come out and let him know that McDonald’s already served breakfast all day long.

Kaepernick’s protest was, honestly, one of the most nonsensical protests in American political history. I think the only reason most people didn’t call him out on it is because they’re afraid of being called racist.

Furthermore, the purpose of a protest is to change something and in order to change something you have to convince people who aren’t on your side to join your side. By taking knees during the anthem, the protesters are killing any chance of ever having people support them that didn’t already support them.

Honestly, this “protest” is one of the dumbest stories in American sports history, but it could have a crippling effect on the NFL business if the league isn’t careful.

Hopefully the NFL will be able to get players backed to serving the vast majority of their audience who are just there to watch football games, not be confronted with politics.

Remember, for everyone out there trying to compare Kaepernick with Ali, leaving aside the fact that Ali was protesting a war and was a public figure in the middle of the Civil Rights era, Ali wasn’t on a team and he wasn’t employed by anyone else.

He was an individual.

Even the Olympic athletes with their black power salutes were essentially just representing themselves. We have never seen a athlete in a team sport protesting while in uniform during the time the game is going to be played. It’s just an awful look for business.

Will writes:

“OK, you are an attorney and I am not, but I believe strongly that the FBI has soooo overreached with its latest indictments in this so-called scandal. I’m sorry, but fraud involves real-live harm in which someone has acted deceptively and the other party actually is harmed either by having some of their wealth/resources taken from them under false pretenses, or they have been promised different results than what actually occurred – and the originator of the exchange knew in advance that he was presenting false outcomes.

Please tell me where that has happened in this situation? The families got money. They were better off. The family and athlete know they are being paid and why they are paid and that Adidas wants to be associated with them. They have the free will to choose a Nike school or any other shoe company. Period. They are not defrauded.

I’ve gone round and round on Facebook with an attorney who says that since federal money is tied into the colleges, then anything that “defrauds” the colleges involves a federal crime. That is crap. If that is true, then if I take a long lunch or fail to keep office hours one day, I have defrauded the federal government. The federal fraud statutes are b.s.”

I agree with you.

Put simply, I believe fraud requires a victim.

Who’s the victim here? The player got money to go to a school and the school got a great player. That may be an NCAA violation, but it isn’t a legal one.

As for the assistant coaches who took money to advise the players to accept particular financial advisers, is that wrong? The player doesn’t have to take their advice. It may be an NCAA violation to do work referring clients to financial advisers, but why is that improper outside of NCAA rules?

Remember, NCAA rules aren’t laws. They can impact your eligibility to play college sports, but they have no significant consequences otherwise.

Furthermore, why do we need a three year investigation by the FBI into college players being paid to go to colleges in exchange for money in the first place? Is this really how you want your tax dollars spent? Is it really a surprise that when there’s a black market for talent — caused by NBA rules that don’t allow players to go pro at 18 years old — that someone would step in to fill it?

These top college basketball players are worth millions of dollars and they aren’t allowed to get any of it. Instead all of the value of their talents goes to the school and the NCAA. If you want to get into morality, doesn’t that actually seem immoral? That the school and the NCAA would be able to make billions a year off the talent from poor kids, the majority of whom are black, and that the NCAA has even set up an enforcement arm to ensure that these kids are just as poor when they enter school as when they leave?

I just can’t believe that an anti-capitalistic system like this can exist in 2017.

I believe in markets and capitalism and the NCAA is fundamentally opposed to both.

Rusty writes:

“This FBI investigation into college basketball is fascinating to me.  First of all, I am not sure how most of the allegations qualify as crimes.  But what is most interesting to me is seeing how the NCAA responds and specifically their response to Adidas.  Does the NCAA have to right to ban Adidas from participating in college athletics?  I believe the NCAA has the right to prohibit schools from associating with certain boosters after they are found to have violated NCAA rules so I don’t know why it would be different here.  Obviously, the ramifications of some sort of ban against Adidas would be much more dramatic to the landscape of college athletics.  For instance, Adidas has a contract with Texas A&M that pays them millions per year.  Could the NCAA ban Texas A&M and other schools from having contracts with Adidas?”

If a booster had done what Adidas did, that booster would be banned from ever having an association with the university again.

But because the shoe companies pay universities tens of millions a year, the NCAA will do nothing to them.

Fun fact, do you know which entity is responsible for the largest “improper benefits scandal” in NCAA history?

The NCAA!

From the NCAA football video game.

The NCAA paid out millions of dollars in benefits to players for the use of their likenesses on the video game. If anyone else had done this they would have been classified as improper benefits and every player would have been ineligible.

But when the NCAA violated its own amateurism rules, they said it didn’t count.

The NCAA is a fundamentally dishonest, horseshit organization that has no basis to exist. As I have argued for years, which teams would be good if the NCAA didn’t exist at all? The same ones that are good now, right? It’s not like someone is deciding whether to go to Troy or Alabama, to Fresno State or USC. The entire NCAA bureaucracy is predicated on keeping the existing powers in place while guaranteeing that thousands of unnecessary employees can have jobs predicated on the hard work and value of top athletes.

It’s the closest thing to slave labor that exists in America today.

“I wanted to get your take on something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. You are unquestionably my favorite sports writer/personality. That title used to belong to Bill Simmons before I discovered Outkick. Like you, he built his audience by writing from the perspective of a fan and filling his columns and mailbags with cultural references and jokes that a group of guys drinking beer and watching the game would make.
After a messy divorce from ESPN, he launched The Ringer. Other than being critical of Roger Goodell and the NFL, his new site is strikingly similar to that of his former employer. Virtually every article with a political or social perspective featured on the site is left-leaning and social justice friendly. The man who once suggested that WNBA scores only be shown on the ticker in the middle of the night and in pink has now created MSESPN Jr. I can’t figure out why.
While ESPN’s leftward transition is bad business and a huge turn off to its core audience, it’s easy to understand. Its parent company, Disney, has long championed liberal causes. That, combined with CEO Bob Iger’s political ambitions, explain why the company would promote a specific brand of politics at the expense of the bottom line. The Ringer, on the other hand, is a new venture in which Mr. Simmons has complete creative control. Since I’m a big Clay Travis fan, it should be evident that I’m not a “stick to sports” person. I just don’t understand why The Ringer’s political and social commentary is exclusively left-leaning. I have a few theories:
1. “The Donald Trump Effect”
President Trump is one of the most polarizing figures in recent American history. Many people (not just those on the left) are baffled and offended by his behavior and tweets. They don’t view opposition to him as political — it’s just commonsense. As a result, there’s no need to offer a different perspective because the only way to justify support of the President is to be racist/xenophobic/sexist/some other way bigoted/mentally challenged. This mentality has taken over many media outlets. Bashing the president is “normal” and no other view merits discussion. If any other of the Republican candidates won the election, would our society be hyper-politicized? I’m sure the SJW’s on social media would still find ways to be outraged because that’s the purpose of their existence, but perhaps the mainstream media would be less transparent with their bias. 
2. The Hollywood Ecosystem
Mr. Simmons has been living in Los Angeles for awhile and has a career in media. I imagine that leftist political views are the norm in that environment. As a result, he genuinely believes that the opinions of his writers are widely held. I’m sure he enjoys a great deal of praise anytime the site publishes a story glorifying Colin Kaepernick or a someone writes a glowing profile of Jemele Hill. If the theme of the feedback he receives is that The Ringer is socially important, why change?
3. Diversity of Identity vs. Diversity of Thought
The writing staff at The Ringer is diverse in terms of race and gender. Like many organizations, maybe Mr. Simmons concludes that such a diverse staff must accurately reflect the nation. He wouldn’t be the first person to assume that diverse identities equals diverse opinions. 
4. A Return to the Mothership
Jason Whitlock suggested via Twitter that maybe Mr. Simmons wants back in at MSESPN. I have no insight regarding The Ringer’s financial status, but maybe the grass wasn’t greener on the the other side of World Wide Leader. As your contacts at the company have shared with you, embracing left-wing politics is a great strategy to obtain job security and promotions. By creating a site that advocates Disney/Iger-friendly positions, Mr. Simmons is showing that he is capable of being a company man once more. 
Of course, it would be something else entirely, which is why I am seeking your perspective. I would love to hear your view as I think Bill Simmons and The Ringer provide an interesting example of the current media climate. 
As always, thank you for your all the amazing work you do!”
This is a great email.
The easiest answer is Bill Simmons is lost in the echo chamber of left wing sports media and Hollywood life. In our modern social media universe it’s easy to surround yourself with people who only share your political views and if people who look different than you but think the same have those same views it can give you an artificial sense of what the country actually believes.
Even if Donald Trump hadn’t won, he received 63 million votes and won 30 of our 50 states. Even if Hillary had won — she got 65 million votes — she would have faced a very divided nation. You can start driving in Miami and go all the way to the tip of Idaho on the Canadian border and not cross a state that Hillary Clinton won. Trump won every SEC state, every Big 12 state and every traditional Big Ten state except for Illinois and Minnesota, which he nearly won.
I often ask myself how someone could just write off half the country’s political opinions as unworthy of respect.
Yet that’s exactly what the media seems to be doing.
I know plenty of Donald Trump voters that I really like or, even, in the case of my family, love. I also know plenty of Hillary Clinton voters, including my own wife, who I love too. My family and friends are almost evenly divided between Hillary and Trump voters. (With a large group like me who voted for Gary Johnson as well).
I’m a confident guy, but I’m not arrogant enough to assume that everything I believe is right and everything others believe is wrong. What’s more, my political beliefs aren’t constrained to one party, I’m socially fairly liberal, but economically conservative. You know who also fits that bill? Donald Trump.
I’ve been saying this for a long time, but Trump is the most liberal Republican to be elected since Teddy Roosevelt. He doesn’t have aggressively conservative positions outside of immigration. Hell, he’s the first president to be elected to a first term in office who supports gay marriage.
If you actually look at his policy positions, he’s fairly middle of the road, not that much different, honestly, than Bill Clinton in 1992 or 1996. In fact, Trump is much more liberal socially than Clinton was in 1992.
So I just don’t get the visceral hate for him.
I also don’t understand the media’s insistence on putting people into boxes they don’t fit. The Politico piece that went up today argued I was Alt Right. That’s clearly not true and everyone with a brain knows it. I’m just a guy with middle of the road beliefs who believes the right and left wings in this country have gone insane.
And there are tens of millions of people just like me out there.
So while everyone else in media has become more partisan and less driven by facts, I think Outkick has become less partisan and more driven by facts. Somehow Outkick has become the most reasonable outlet in media.
I think Simmons has become like most of the rest of the sports media. Which is a shame, because the reason he had a voice to begin with was because he didn’t follow the herd.  And because he has the ability with his site to embrace total creative freedom.
Instead he’s just become a much less read version of ESPN.

D.C. writes:

“I agree with you that ESPN has gone too liberal, but there is no other decent alternative. NBC Sports and Fox Sports (especially) are at best cheap clones of ESPN. This morning’s lineup of Fox Sports featured 2 shows (6 hours straight) of First Take knock-offs, 2 male “experts” with a female moderator. Of course the more popular show features Shannon Sharpe discussing the football players kneeling ad nausem. 
Plus, the college football programming is not even comparable.Fox & NBC can just show Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10, and Notre Dame games. If you want to watch SEC or ACC games, you will have to watch an ESPN affiliate or the CBS SEC game of the week.
I do agree with you that ESPN needs to change, but basically there is no other alternate to watch. Unfortunately, Fox & NBC Sports would rather be ESPN imitators than offer anything new or better.”
Well, I’d encourage you to listen to Fox Sports Radio for divergent and intelligent perspectives, but as far as television goes, I agree with you. I think FS1 had a real opportunity to create a middle of the road counter to the absurd left wing direction of ESPN and has instead elected to follow the exact same road map as ESPN.
The analogy I’ve made is — FS1 is like a running back that refuses to run in the direction of the open field and keeps running right into the back of its lineman over and over instead. If FS1 really wanted to differentiate and roll up ratings and money they would have told me to do exactly what I do and gotten out of the way.
Instead, other than Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd, they want to have a ton of ESPN clones and make FS1 shows virtually indistinguishable from ESPN shows. And they’re doing that all while ESPN is collapsing! It’s like building a house out of the same materials you just saw get swept away in an earthquake.
I think that’s bad business, but the positive is when you own your own business you don’t have to worry about other people’s poor business decisions, you just take advantage of the business opportunities in front of you and keep rolling.
Which Outkick is doing.
And thanks to you guys we have never been stronger than we are right now.
Thanks for all your support, see you at 1:30 et for a special Outkick interview with Brett Favre.
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