Last weekend LeBron James compared white NFL owners to slavemasters and then perpetuated a stereotype that has led to the discrimination of Jews for centuries by sharing a rap lyric — “We been getting that Jewish money, everything is kosher,” — and there was one negative article written on mainstream sports sites calling out James’s behavior.
And even that article on Sports Illustrated wasn’t very negative, it mostly defended James and lauded his intelligence and business acumen while arguing this was a small mistake. (My article ripping LeBron’s slavemaster comments is above. I didn’t see a single other person write a column like this who has a substantial audience).
James apologized for those who were offended by the rap lyric, which isn’t really an apology, and the story sank into the recesses so rapidly that it was not even mentioned on Christmas Day when James’s Lakers played the Golden State Warriors on ABC and ESPN.
Compare the sports media response to James’s two incredibly stupid comments in the past week with the reaction when Donald Trump took a shot at James on Twitter this summer or when Fox News’s Laura Ingraham said James should shut up and dribble last spring. When James spoke stupidly, there was mostly silence. When James was attacked by Trump and Ingraham the sports media took up arms to defended James like he was under legitimate attack instead of, you know, being attacked the same way all politicians are when they venture into politics.
Or, God forbid, compare the response to James calling the white NFL owners slavemasters with the reaction when Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, rightly, said the NFL couldn’t allow the inmates to run the prison, a mangling of a popular idiom in reference to the NFL’s collapsing national brand in the wake of the extreme politicization of the national anthem.
This is emblematic of an incredible double standard — most in the sports media leap to defend anyone in the “woke” media like James while refusing to criticize players when they behave stupidly. The result is the sports media is holding James to such a low standard that his behavior doesn’t in any way correspond with the banal and trite political stances he’s embraced.
In the wake of James’s retweeting of 21 Savage rap lyrics much was made — by LeBron’s defenders in the mainstream media — of the fact that LeBron was merely reposting lyrics. These same sports media had, of course, lost their mind when a white basketball player, Donte Divincenzo, reposted lyrics from a Meek Mill song. So what that the lyrics — “I’m ballin on these niggas like I’m Derrick Rose” — were reposted when Divincenzo was a teenager and, significantly, represent Divincenzo aspiring to be as good of as basketball player as Derrick Rose, the sports media lost its mind over Divincenzo posting the rap lyrics because the word nigga was included. The context didn’t matter. It was unacceptable for a white teenager to even write the lyrics to a popular rap song.
So a white teenager who plays basketball can’t repost song lyrics because that’s offensive, but if you question LeBron reposting offensive rap lyrics then you’re the one at fault? That seems like, wait for it, a double standard. LeBron, a grown 34 year old black man is being treated far more leniently by the sports media than a 14 year old white teenager.
The same thing happened last spring when the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team was caught on video singing along to the lyrics with “Freaky Friday,” a rap duet between Lil’ Dicky and Chris Brown, that lampoons our modern day obsession with racial identity. The sports media, once more, lost its collective mind over the horrible transgression of college girls singing along to a popular college song and many demanded the team’s entire season be canceled.
So what happened when LeBron said white NFL owners were slavemasters and reposted offensive rap lyrics? The sports media gave him a pass. Even worse, many in the sports media didn’t only give LeBron a pass, they actually defended his reposting of the rap lyrics.
The best example of this insane double standard came from ESPN’s Max Kellerman, who said he personally wasn’t offended and blamed PC culture for people who were upset with LeBron.
Quoth Kellerman on ESPN’s First Take:
“I’m Jewish and I’m not offended even a little bit. I’m not offended in the slightest. The question is, what’s in the heart of the speaker? Right, like what are the intentions here? Is the intention to reinforce a negative cultural stereotype? No.”
He then, amazingly, says much of the reaction to LeBron is reflective of a “PC culture that has run amuck. Kellerman, speaking on ESPN’s First Take, continued: “You can’t say anything unless you have three PhD’s in the subject because you might say something that betrays a lack of complete understanding about every nuance and sensitivity and in some way reinforce a negative cultural stereotype that you didn’t know and so people feel stifled especially in the so-called public square… that if they express some thought they have they’re going to be attacked for it and so what we have is a chilling effect on freedom of speech and an exchange of ideas.”
ESPN found Kellerman’s defense of James to be so worthy of sharing that they penned it as the video that plays above their article about James’s comments.
This wasn’t surprising because not one single ESPN employee ripped James for his comments.
Now if you didn’t know any better, you might read these quotes and think, “Hey, that sounds like something Clay Travis might say.” Only, this is not something Max Kellerman has ever said before. In fact, last year Kellerman advocated removing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot if even one single Irish person was offended by the Fighting Irish moniker.
“How hard is it for you, or anyone, to empathize, simply empathize, with a group who is offended — even if it is a minority of the group that is offended… Many Irish-Americans are not offended, but many are. And should that (the Notre Dame Fighting Irish moniker and the leprechaun mascot) also change? The answer is yes, unequivocally yes. Pernicious, negative stereotypes of marginalized people that offend even some among them should be changed. It’s not that hard.”
So last year Kellerman argued on the same show that if any single Irish person was offended by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot then it had to be changed, but this year he says that as a Jew he wasn’t personally offended at all by James’s actions and attacks PC culture for the idea that anyone might be offended so there’s no reason to be offended by what LeBron said.
Holy double standard, Batman.
Max, newsflash, you are PC culture!
Worse than that, you are arguing the exact opposite of what you argued last year. Last year you said if even a single Irish person was offended by the Fighting Irish mascot it had to change and now this year you’re arguing you weren’t personally offended so this is a non-story.
Now if Kellerman has suddenly decided he wants to join me in railing against PC culture, welcome to the club, but I think what’s happening here is more readily transparent — Kellerman is defending LeBron James because he’s on team woke sports culture and he’s not going to criticize a teammate.
(I asked Kellerman to explain his double standard on Twitter, but he didn’t respond.)
You may not like me at all, but I think you have to acknowledge that I’m consistent in my arguments. I just want for everyone to be treated the same in our modern media, regardless of their race, gender, ethincity, religion or sexual orientation. I think identity politics is insane, we should all be treated the exact same.
If you are going to attack Donte Divincenzo for posting rap lyrics as a teenager and the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team for singing along to a rap song, don’t you have to rip LeBron for posting offensive lyrics as a 34 year old grown ass man?
I think so.
And, I also think, that if you attack LeBron many in woke culture would realize that what they’re doing is absurd. That modern day woke culture is totally broken.
Yet that doesn’t happen, the standards are totally different for LeBron and Divincenzeo and the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team.
On Christmas Eve I asked Rachel Nichols of ESPN why she was promoting her sit-down exclusive interview with LeBron James and not commenting at all on what he’d said about Jews and white NFL owners.
Did you ask him about calling white NFL owners slavemasters & perpetuating sterotypes about Jews? Or did you just continue to corporate shill for @espn’s biggest cash cow because they wildly overpaid for NBA rights? I bet I know the answer. https://t.co/yho4FPEmav
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 24, 2018
She clapped back at me using a time machine joke.
Hi Clay! Merry Christmas
We did the interview at the end of last week. My time machine was broken that day so I was unaware of what LeBron was gonna say or do in the future. I think there’s still good stuff in there but if you don’t that’s okay too. Enjoy the spirit of the season
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 24, 2018
Woke sports Twitter, predictably, loved her response to me. (I’ve never seen so many sports media people with hardly any followers with blue check marks clicking like on her response.)
But Nichols completely dodged my question by arguing she couldn’t address the comments because her interview happened after LeBron’s comments.
Only, this doesn’t make sense at all.
Nichols, a card carrying member of woke sports twitter who regularly likes and retweets insults of Donald Trump, has a daily TV show focused on the NBA. She could address LeBron’s comments about NFL owners and Jews at any time.
Only she hasn’t.
Because if she ripped LeBron, he’d stop talking to her and she wouldn’t be able to interview him any more. Would her show be hurt by this? Of course not. But she’s afraid of losing that access. So are many others in the sports media who refused to call out LeBron.
Now I’m not trying to pick on Kellerman and Nichols in particular, they are just examples of the hypocritical way the left wing sports media handled this story and many others like it. They had an opportunity to speak truth to power and they all avoided doing that to ensure that they could maintain their connection to LeBron James and his posse.
As for LeBron himself. He “apologized”:
“Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone. That’s not why I chose to share that lyric. I always [post lyrics]. That’s what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it. So, I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody.”
Okay, but did anyone actually go look at the lyrics of LeBron’s “great music?”
If so, why not question him about the other lyrics in this song that are so great he’s encouraging and endorsing this music to be consumed by millions and millions of his fans, many of them kids.
LeBron has been universally praised for his opposition to youth violence. (The fact that we praise anyone for being opposed to youth violence is insane, by the way, who is in favor of it? This is just more evidence of how lenient our treatment of athletes is in this country.) Remember LeBron’s big ESPY’s speech about how violence is wrong that sent woke Twitter into spasms of retweeting glory? Well, why not question LeBron on the lyrics of his “great music” if you’re actually a journalist. You know the “great music” from the same exact song he quoted the Jewish lyrics from.
“All these dead bodies got me seein’ strange things (Straight up)
Both sides of the gun, I done dealt and felt the pain (On God)
Drive by? Nah, we the walk-up gang (21)”
I’m not a rap scholar, but these lyrics definitely seem to be glorifying street violence by bragging that you’re so tough you walk up and shoot people instead of driving by and shooting people.
How manly of you!
“I come from the South (South)
We was stealin’ cars
You was inside the house (Pussy)
I know he gon’ be a rat one day
Right now we call him a mouse (21)”
Ah, so the guy who was not stealing cars is a pussy and he might one day tell on the people who were stealing cars. Man, what a pussy that guy is! He’s opposed to felonies and not committing them himself! You should definitely call him mouse because one day he’s going to be a rat!
Woke sports media Twitter is obsessed with misogyny, so these lyrics would seem to be problematic too, right?
“Talkin’ on the pillow, nigga, that shit for the hoes (Straight up)”
How about some casual racism mixed with misogyny tossed in for good measure?
“Head so good, she not even white, I still call her Becky (Yeah, yeah)”
And how about a nice conclusion glorifying violence too?
“We pull up ready to shoot (Brrrah)
Y’all ready to fight (Stupid)
Pull up, ready to kill (Yeah)
Y’all ready to die (Straight up)
Broke-ass nigga get killed ridin’ a bike (Pussy)”
Yeah, man, that guy was so poor he couldn’t afford a car and got killed riding a bike instead. He was a real pussy! He was poor and now he’s dead! What a total and complete pussy he was!
What a great song.
A real sports media that was interested in speaking truth to power instead of kissing up to it would ask LeBon how sharing lyrics from raps like this square with his quest to end youth violence. That’s especially the case because LeBron is a 34 year old billionaire who hasn’t lived a hard life for twenty years now. He’s as hard as vanilla ice cream left outside in July.
While I’m far from a rap scholar these lyrics definitely seem to glorify street violence, ridicule cooperation with police, and embrace misogyny and racism on a pretty clear level. If anything, LeBron quoted the least offensive lyrics in the entire rap on his Instagram. Everything in this song is the exact opposite of what LeBron has publicly stated he’s in favor of: equality for all and nonviolence,
Now, again, I’m a first amendment absolutist so I’m not saying LeBron can’t quote rap lyrics he likes or share stupid and racist opinions about white NFL owners being slavemasters — and I certainly support any rapper saying anything they want to say in their music — I just think LeBron shouldn’t get a pass for his blatant hypocrisy here.
The sports media shouldn’t be playing favorites and discriminating how they treat someone based on their race, gender and politics.
Unfortunately, they are.
LeBron gets a pass because he’s black and “woke” when many other don’t because they aren’t the right color and they aren’t the right political persuasion.
When LeBron gets attacked as being dumb or told to shut up and dribble, the sports media defends him by the legion, but when he’s dumb and would be better of shutting up and dribbling, he still gets defended by the same sports media. LeBron gets a free pass no matter what he does.
This isn’t fair and impartial sports media journalism, it’s insanely slanted to the far left wing. To put it in the context of hashtag activism that is so popular on Twitter it’s #blackprivilege and it’s #athleteprivilege.
When the sports media should be speaking truth to powerful men like LeBron James and actually holding them accountable so their actions match their words, instead they turn into a cadre of jocksniffing and cleatchasing cheerleaders.
There should be a ton of people writing this column.
Instead there’s only one. (pussies — 21 Savage voice).