All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, time for the mailbag to help you escape from the every day doldrums of work.

As always you can email me at claytravis@gmail.com with your questions.

So here we go:

Lots of you sent variations of this email, what do you think about Megyn Kelly getting fired?

First, it’s hard for me to feel bad for someone who gets paid $87 million for one year’s work and will walk away, reportedly, with $69 million. I thought Auburn was set up for a messy divorce from Gus Malzahn, but this makes that seem like child’s play.

At least Malzahn won an SEC title, went to a national title game, and has played in another SEC title game before Auburn gave him huge money. Megyn Kelly had never worked for NBC before and now she’s going to receive nearly a hundred million for one year’s work.

Damn, that’s fantastic.

But on a larger scale, I think this is a failure of the show’s staff as much as it’s Megyn Kelly’s failure. Television shows are planned events. Did no one on the staff know that Megyn Kelly was going to come out and say she’d grown up with people wearing blackface and that she didn’t see anything wrong with it? I agree with her that political correctness has taken over when it comes to Halloween costumes — and virtually everything else in this country — but that’s a pretty tone deaf statement to make.

It suggests she’s surrounded by not a very intelligent or diverse staff. (And I don’t mean diverse by color, necessarily, I mean diverse by having a variety of opinions).

Megyn Kelly’s only eight years older than me, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen a white person dress up as a black person wearing blackface as part of the costume. And if it had happened I think it would have been a pretty big deal at either my high school, my college, or my law school. Certainly I’d cringe if I were at a party and someone showed up in blackface.

Now I do think sometimes we overreact — there are always kids in college who show up at blackout stadium events completely covered in black paint. That isn’t black face because they aren’t pretending to be a black person, they are just dressing up all in black and covering their skin to match their clothes. Yet inevitably social media will lose its mind when those kids are shown on camera.

My general position on Halloween costumes is this — everyone should be able to dress up as everyone else, just don’t put on blackface. (I also don’t think black people should put on white face either, unless they’re dressing up as mimes). I think that’s a pretty simple rule.

But if a white kid wants to dress up as the Black Panther or a black kid wants to dress up as Thor, I think that’s fantastic because it means that kid is responding to the superhero’s character, not his skin color. That’s exactly what we want to have happen in this country, for everyone to be judged based on something other than what they look like.

As a general rule, I think you should ask yourself this — is the payoff worth it? If you’ve got a kickass Adolf Hitler costume, is that costume worth the reaction it will engender? Is it worth losing your job over? Do you really need to dress up as Flavor Flav and cover yourself in blackface? Was that Donald Trump costume really worth the white face?

Most of this is just common sense, which is, I think we can all agree, way too uncommon.

Having said all of this, I think the fact that Megyn Kelly’s opinion on Halloween costumes is a major national story is pretty wild too. Did NBC really need to cover it on the national news? Did it need to be a Today Show segment? It seems to me that many at NBC didn’t like her and were looking for a reason to force her out. Seriously, think about all that is going on in the world and NBC chose to spend two days on their national news talking about Megyn Kelly’s opinion on Halloween costumes? It seems like top brass at NBC wanted her gone and used this story to hasten her exit.

Furthermore, I genuinely abhor the idea that there are “acceptable” and “unacceptable” opinions. If Megyn Kelly really didn’t know the history of blackface or just misspoke on her live TV show, is that really a fireable offense? I have a radical idea, sometimes people screw up. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be immediately fired for their screw up.

As many of you who listen to my radio, Periscope and Facebook show, live local radio interviews, or watch me on TV can readily attest, I screw up every day. When you do live media all day long, you aren’t going to be perfect. Particularly when you talk about a variety of subjects.

I operate with what is evidently now a crazy presumption, assume someone isn’t an awful person. That is, assume that everyone is, like you and me, imperfect and not always the best at sharing their opinions or telling a joke or analyzing a situation. Sometimes, gasp, people really do make mistakes and it doesn’t reflect that they are an awful person.

Having said all of this, what I find most fascinating about the Megyn Kelly imbroglio is more forward thinking — what obligations do parents have, for instance, to share old racist stereotypes with our kids to ensure they don’t do something that was racist 100 years ago and isn’t common now? For instance, my kids have no idea about minstrel shows or comparing black people to gorillas. Just like they don’t know anything about antisemitism or other pejorative racial categorizations. Should I tell them about all these racist things to make sure they aren’t racist. I guess so, but doesn’t that also just spread the knowledge of pejorative racial antiquities?

Our strategy as parents as has been pretty straightforward — treat every single person the exact same regardless of what they look like.

And so far as I can tell my kids do that.

Now they’re certainly aware of some levels of historical racism, but do we really need to sit down and lay out all of these things that happened over a hundred years ago that otherwise they’d have no knowledge of? I’m torn on this.

Also, and I’ve asked this question before, what’s the time limit on historical outrage? There are many left wingers today demanding that statutes of Confederate generals be torn down, but no one is demanding that the Julius Caesar statue be torn down at Caesar’s palace. That’s because even though Caesar helmed up an empire that enslaved far more people, it was comparatively long ago.

So when do we just move on and acknowledge things weren’t perfect in the past, but we don’t have to be perpetually outraged about them either.

I was born in 1979 and attended integrated schools my entire life. I went to a high school named after Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t believe I have seen an act of direct and overt racism in my entire life. Maybe that’s an aberration and many of you reading this have seen direct and overt racism, but I don’t think it is, I think direct and overt racism is fairly rare.

That’s why we spend so much time talking about systemic racism and other hidden elements of racism in the country.

I think most people in this country of all races are pretty good, I really do. I tend to like most people I meet and get along with them.

So why is our country — particularly in a social media era — so quickly to assume the absolute worsts of everyone?

If I go into my Twitter feed right now and check my mentions there will be someone every day, frequently dozens of people, who are telling me that I’m pure evil.

Really, pure evil? The guy who wakes up and does a three hour sports radio show then sits down at his computer and writes this column then eats lunch with his four year old and finishes off my day by giving sports gambling picks and then sits down and eats dinner with his three kids is pure evil?

I just don’t get it.

We have lost all ability to utilize nuance in this country. Everything is either the best thing that has ever existed or the worst thing that has ever existed and nothing is in between.

Megyn Kelly said something ignorant — she legitimately seems to have been unaware of the racial history of black face in this country — and then apologized for it, but I think her intent here wasn’t awful. It was to presume that someone’s intent isn’t to be racist with their Halloween costume. In general, I think that’s correct. I don’t think most people dress up for Halloween with the intent to be racist.

For instance, I’m sure there is going to be a white, Asian or Hispanic family somewhere in America this year who lets a young kid dress up as LeBron James in a Laker jersey and wear black face. That kid will want to do it because he loves LeBron James, which is the reason most little kids want to wear costumes. And the parents may let him do it because they are ignorant of America’s racial history. (They might well be immigrants and honestly not know any of the history). Does that make them awful racists? I don’t think so. They will have just made a mistake because they aren’t aware of contemporary values in that country. If you or I suddenly found ourselves in India or China are you confident you’d get your kids dressed up without violating any societal norms? I’m not.

To me this entire imbroglio says more about NBC — that they’re willing to pay her $69 million and fire her over this — than it does about Megyn Kelly.

David writes:

“Now that a jury and the federal government have essentially turned NCAA rules into law, it is time to abolish the concept of amateurism in college athletics. The players have the power to make this change. As professional sports have proved, the most effective way to alter the relationship between labor and capital is to strike. The teams that are selected for the college football playoff should agree not to play unless the NCAA terminate the rules regarding improper payments. 
The scope of the strike should be specific. With Title IX, it could potentially be messy for the universities to pay their athletes. Plus, the schools love a system that allows them to exploit free labor. Rather than request paychecks for the teams, the players should fight to be allowed to capitalize on their status. Nike should be able to sign Tua Tagovailoa to an endorsement deal while he’s enrolled at Alabama. Dwayne Haskins should be able to spend a Saturday signing footballs and putting them up on eBay. Every other student on a campus can use their talents to earn money. If a student on an academic scholarship majors in creative writing, that student can publish a bestselling novel without fear of losing the scholarship. This seems to be common sense, but there are still those who will oppose student athletes cashing in regardless of the argument. Fine. The arguments don’t matter. The only thing that will determine the future of players being able to profit from their abilities is their leverage.
After the playoff teams are selected, the players will have enormous leverage. Considering that ESPN will be unlikely to retain the rights to NFL games when the current contract expires, college football will rise in importance to the network. A year without the playoff would be a disaster. ESPN is paying around $470 million a year, presumably they could put considerable pressure on the NCAA to resolve the issue with the players. 
The players have the power to change the NCAA. They just need someone to organize the strike. Perhaps a bestselling author with the best hair in media…” 
I agree with everything you’re staying here and I spent quite a bit of time on yesterday’s Outkick talking about the criminalization of NCAA rules which we just saw happen.

As a capitalist, I believe players should be able to be compensated for the value of their talent just like every other college student can. I abhor the phrase “improper benefits” and think it should be relegated to the dustbin of history.
I also agree with you that the rules would change if players could ever be organized enough to make this argument, but I think that most of them wouldn’t benefit very much from this new rule. Because I don’t think most players would have much value on the open market.
I’m much more troubled by the fact that three men are going to jail for multiple years for paying poor kids and their families to play college sports when those college sports are making billions off those kids.
Your solution wouldn’t eliminate the situation we just saw happen.
I just really don’t care about college kids getting paid and don’t understand why anyone does. My enjoyment of college athletics isn’t implicated in any way by what car the players drive or what their apartment looks like. Why should you, who sell your labor to the highest bidder you can, have a problem with college kids doing the same?
That’s called capitalism.
Kurt writes:

“Clay – Love to get your take on this.

Bama, Clemson, & Notre Dame all winning out isn’t that far fetched at this point. The Big 10, Pac 12, and Big XII champs each having 2+ losses could also happen easily. If that scenario occurs, do you think an undefeated UCF/USF makes the playoff as a non-power 5?”

It’s an interesting hypothesis, but I don’t think the committee will ever put a non-power 5 in when there are teams with two losses who won major conferences.

Think of it this way, what would draw more interest — Alabama against Central Florida or Alabama against two loss Ohio State or Michigan?

My solution to this problem is pretty simple — expand the playoff to eight teams and take the five big conference champs, two wild cards, and the top ranked non-power 5 team. Play the first round of the playoffs in the home stadium of the higher seeded teams.
Boom, problem solved.
Jordan writes:
“You are a WWE shareholder & fan of the product, what are your thoughts about WWE still moving forward with the event “Crown Jewel” in Saudi Arabia next Friday? Given the controversy of the Washington Post reporter who was brutally murdered for being an dissident of the Saudi Regime. Also, the women wrestlers cannot be on the show, which WWE makes a lot of money off their women superstars i.e. Ronda Rousey. 
Can WWE survive this PR Hit? Many fans are voicing their outrage via Twitter of not watching the show, and some have cancelled their WWE Network subscription. Moreover, can WWE or another company stop doing business with a country if there’s a controversy  & not face any repercussions?” 
I would still do the event even though, clearly, like just about everyone, I’m opposed to state sponsored executions of journalists.
The easy way, at least for me, to think about this is as follows: would I have still traveled to the country and spoken at a state-sponsored event if I’d already been scheduled to be there? My answer is yes.
I think most people who pulled out of events there are doing so for show. This reminds me of when sports leagues and musical artists suddenly started announcing they wouldn’t do events in North Carolina because of the transgender bathroom bill, but those same musical artists and sports leagues were continuing to perform in other countries with infinitely more abhorrent records on human rights.
So why would I continue with my WWE event if I ran the company and why would I have still traveled to the country and spoken there? I think it remains a net benefit. Let me explain why:
First, doing WWE events in Saudi Arabia serves to help open up a closed society to outside entertainment events. Yes, those events are being done under rules that are unacceptable in America — you can’t have women performers as you note — but if someone becomes a fan of the WWE they are likely to seek out their content online or via pirated feeds and they’d see those women being featured in the programming.
By exposing a Saudi Arabian audience to American entertainment you are making their country more cosmopolitan and spreading American values.
Second, I’m not an absolutist, I’m a realist. There are many things Saudi Arabia does that I would disagree with, but I think what we seek is not wholesale adoption of American values at one time, but incremental adoption of American values over the long term. Giving women the right to drive cars and opening up movie theaters may seem like small gestures to us, but they are big deals in Saudi Arabia.
Putting on a WWE event is another move in a step of cultural liberation relative to preexisting Saudi Arabian values.
Third, I think most people globally are pretty similar when they are given options to make free decisions for themselves. So I think everything naturally bends, if freedom is permitted, towards the way we live in America today, in the direction of a free and capitalistic society. I think exposing people to American ideals and products — even wacky ones like the WWE — ultimately serve to promote American values and make the world a better place.
While many people want to focus on religious or cultural differences around the world, I always think about this — regardless of what your religion or culture is or where you live, most men like sports and women. Sure, there are exceptions on an individual basis — some men like musicals, guns and men more than anything in the world — but I’ve yet to travel to a country where men, as a whole, don’t like sports and women.
WWE is a sport and women are an important part of that sport. If you get men — and women — to care about WWE wrestling, which is really a form of modern day Shakespeare when you break down the dramatic story lines, really, it is —  then eventually they want the full fruition of those stories. They don’t just want parts of them.
I think by exposing Saudi Arabians to WWE you open their country to the world more than they already are. If you don’t go, I think you reward the hardliners who argue against ever embracing anything from outside their country.
Hayden writes:
“I really need your in depth analysis of your opinions on the current bomb situation. What’s happening here?”
We don’t know.
Why?
Because a crazy person is mailing bombs. Could that crazy person be a conservative or a liberal? Certainly. That’s why I think so much of the coverage has been so wacky — whenever an event happens now the media, and social media, immediately rush to argue that whatever has happened is a confirmation of their worldviews.
That’s before we know any of the facts.
It’s astounding to me how many people immediately assumed this was a crazy Donald Trump supporter and how many people also assumed this was someone pretending to be a crazy Donald Trump supporter.
The only thing I’m sure of is that this person is crazy.
And that we shouldn’t spend all of our time arguing what one crazy person’s decision actually means for our country. Because, follow me along here on the logic, what a single crazy person does isn’t indicative of anything except that person’s insanity!
Tim writes:
“I was just wondering if you’re on the show to make Todd and Sal look good, or are you really that back at making picks?
Just joking, love the show!”
I’m in danger to falling to 0-6 — 0-7 if you count Jason Whitlock’s week of picks — and I honestly found myself thinking this week, “Wait, could I get fired from the show for losing every week? Is that possible?”
But then a part of me thinks, isn’t it pretty good television if I keep losing?
I think what makes great TV or radio is either great success or great failure. Right now my ability to fail week after week is pretty remarkable.
Even I’m kind of amazed by it.
Anyway, check out the show this afternoon on FS1 at 430 eastern. It really is a lot of fun to do and we have a really fun group.
And thanks to all of you for supporting Outkick, I hope all of you have fantastic weekends.
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