Hearne: ‘Big Sexy’ Jason Whitlock Called Out as Uncle Tom, Sambo

wx2udlc9a8t1jpqnjgqcJason Whitlock is the sportswriter Kansas Citians loved to hate…

Until his propensity for burning bridges and getting fired lead to a nasty split with the Kansas City Star four years back. The falling out left a twisted trail of acrimony and ugly accusations, similar to how most of Whitlock’s media divorces have gone down.

Whitrlock continued to blog for Fox Sports – albeit sans the seven figure paycheck he was rumored to be receiving – until ESPN recycled him last August with the intention of Jason lording over a blog for promising young, black sportswriters.

“It sounds like an unrealistic concept,” a former Star editor told me at the time. “Pretty bizarre to set Jason up as mentor/role model, unless he’s matured some. Hopefully Jason will put  these  younger  writers  on a good path, not a path to getting off-track.”

A year later and Big Sexy has yet to debut the so-called Black Grantland and the term Uncle Tom is beginning to surface among fellow black sportswriters.

“Whitlock left Fox for ESPN last August,” USA Today‘s Jason McIntyre wrote in April. “It’s been eight months. Where is his ‘Black Grantland?’ ESPN hired Nate Silver from the New York Times in July of last year to launch his new 538. His site launched in March after months of breathless updates on new hires. Has Whitlock’s site hired anyone? Is there a tentative launch date?”

That same month sportswriter/broadcaster Jay Mariotti claimed the real reason ESPN rehired Whitlock – one of ESPN’s fiercest critics while blogging at Fox – was to mitigate Whitlock’s likely testimony in a libel/slander lawsuit against the network by the wife of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine.

Fine, you may recall, was accused of child molesting, but after a year-long investigation prosecutors declined to press charges and dropped the case because the statute of limitations had run out. Still the accusations cost Fine his job after 35 years with the team.

whitlockandbunnyESPN makes some dubious hires,” Mariotti wrote. “None was more dubious than Whitlock. Not only has a strong, fearless voice in sports media been systematically quieted by the ESPN machine — I rarely see his content on the ESPN.com site — but when he does write a piece, it’s usually about an African-American-related subject. I would not appreciate being pigeonholed on topical matter, especially pertaining to race, and I wonder if ESPN hired Whitlock simply to silence him about ESPN issues. Because no one — and I mean, no one — has been more critical of ESPN than Whitlock.”

Mariotti has a point.

In November of 2011 Whitlock wrote on Fox: “It’s morally criminal what…ESPN did to Bernie Fine…Vigilantism killed Trayvon Martin, and it ruined the career and life of Bernie Fine. Martin and Fine were not perfect; no human or victim is. They likely made mistakes in judgment that contributed to their demise. But, in my opinion, they did not deserve their fate.”

The latest: Deadspin writer Greg Howard‘s lengthy hit piece on Whitlock yesterday, Can Jason Whitlock Save ESPN’s Black Grantland from Himself?

In it Howard talks of waking up in a hospital bed and “Jason Whitlock was yelling into my ear” after he’d criticized Whitlock in a piece about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

“I couldn’t understand why Whitlock was so furious, so inconsolable,” Howard writes. “If anything, we’d gone easy on him, adducing his tired arguments in service of a broader point about the evolution of black sportswriting….The next morning, my phone rang. It was Whitlock again…I could tell he was offering me a way out. He just needed me to grovel, to beg his forgiveness, to massage his ego. But I was fucked up; I was all out of guilt. I finally told him the truth: I meant every word. And that’s how I fell out with Jason Whitlock…”

incognito-whitlock-610x324To Howard, his falling out with Whitlock was textbook Jason.

“It was a classic Whitlock encounter, hitting all the themes of betrayal that figure prominently not only in his life and work but in the many criticisms of both,” Howard continues. “Betrayal is what led to his defenestration from ESPN the last time around. Betrayal is why his best piece of writing never found the audience it deserved. And betrayal is at the heart of why the most prominent black sportswriter around is also the most hated sportswriter in the black community, and why, 10 months after Whitlock first announced his new endeavor, a black sports and culture site that he’ll run under the aegis of his old enemy ESPN, the project is still struggling to get off the ground.”

Therein lies the question.

Was Whitlock actually hired for the unlikely job of mentoring promising young black writers or to get him of ESPN’s back or  to mitigate his possible testimony against ESPN in the Bernie Fine trial or maybe just to bounce about as a guest from show to show on the network?

“I spoke with dozens of his black colleagues over the past few months, and what struck me was how many of them outright referred to Whitlock as an “Uncle Tom,” accusing him of attacking black culture generally and young black men and women specifically for personal profit and career advancement,” Howard writes. “Uncle Tom. The second-worst thing you could call a black man. How many times did I hear it? I stopped counting around 15.

” ‘Look,’ one writer said to me. ‘I don’t use the term Sambo lightly. But fuck Jason Whitlock.’ “

 With his return to ESPN, “Whitlock went from a columnist to a kingmaker,” Howard says.

Just one problem, the sites never got off the ground and there are serious concerns about Whitlock’s ability to attract young African Americans.

Whitlock was perceived by many at his post Oprah show appearance peak as “the racist right’s unwitting attack dog, here to explain how black people were the problem,” Howard says. “He became a bona fide, nationwide cash cow, even as his credibility as a writer and a thinker was beginning to crumble.

“The problem wasn’t really that Whitlock was preaching social conservatism or criticizing blacks. His views…lined up neatly with those of Bill Cosby, or The Boondocks’s Uncle Ruckus, or your own uncle, sparring across the table with you at Thanksgiving dinner. They weren’t all that crazy…The difference between Whitlock and your uncle sitting next to you at Thanksgiving dinner (is) your uncle isn’t belting out his antiquated, inaccurate beliefs to a mostly white, mostly male audience of millions.”

All of this from a young writer who Whitlock courted for the yet-to-launch ESPN site.

introRaising the question, how Whitlock can attract promising young African-American writers if they don’t respect him?

“While Whitlock has lashed out at everyone over the years, his greatest hits have all had something in common: They involve him criticizing some combination of women, young black men, and black culture,” Howard writes. “There was the Serena Williams is fat column. There was the let’s all leer at Erin Andrews and Elisabeth Hasselbeck “catfighting” column. There was the Serena Williams crip walked at Wimbledon because black people don’t demand she act better column. There was the Jay-Z shouldn’t be a sports agent because he is a rapper who says “nigga” column. There was the Lolo Jones needs to stop crying when she loses at the Olympics column. There was theRobert Griffin III needs a lesson in humility column. It’s so routine that when Donald Sterling was caught on tape talking about how he didn’t want his mistress bringing black people to Los Angeles Clippers games, blacks took to Twitter to speculate on just how Whitlock was going to use this opportunity to explain that black people are the problem.”

Howard has serious doubts about Whitlock’s ability to head the blog.

“I talked to a dozen writers and editors whom I’d heard were being recruited,” he says. “Over and over they related the same story, of young talent having to decide between taking the opportunity and paycheck of a lifetime, and working for a man who made his bones disparaging people like them to an audience of approving racists. That’s the bitch of it for Whitlock.”

Clearly Whitlock’s got his work cut out for him and the clock is ticking. 

Look, Jason’s been burning bridges for a long time and just about anyone who’s ever worked with him has seen his dark side. And while Howard makes excellent points to illustrate Whitlock’s throwing blacks under the bus to appeal to whites, Jason also loved to pimp the Star’s white readership.

Jason Whitlock is an enigma.

He’s a troubled man who has serious difficulties getting along with pretty much anybody and everybody. Yet he continues to make his mark as a lightning rod.

Trouble is, lightning rods don’t always make very good mentors.

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11 Responses to Hearne: ‘Big Sexy’ Jason Whitlock Called Out as Uncle Tom, Sambo

  1. the dude says:

    What’s the best and ultimately the cheapest way to silence someone that is criticizing you in disparaging ways?
    Give them a paycheck and bring them into the fold.

    • the dude says:

      And as Howard pointed out Whitlock is all bluster with no subtlety.
      In the end that makes for a bad writer.

  2. chuck says:

    The article is a well written evisceration of Whitlock that comes from the angle (Repeatedly) of the desire for equal outcomes vis a vis equal opportunity.

    Greg Howard’s certainty, that blacks are unrepresented in journalism because of racism, is preposterous. The article in an in depth explanation of his (Howard’s) interviews for a job with Jason’s new endeavor, at ESPN. The organization whose employees and owners he fu*k*ng NUKED again and again and again for years after he was fired. Yet here he is, with unlimited funds and backing from those same folks (ESPN), in an advent effort to start an endeavor that will be by, about and for African Americans.

    “Whitlock was summoning all sorts of ugliness, striking many of the same sour notes that his own detractors would hit a few years later. Black men in America are often depicted in a very specific way, as inarticulate, unread, impulsive, violent, and altogether unrefined. When blacks show traits that run counter to this depiction, they’re often seen—by whites and blacks alike—as somehow faking it, ashamed of their blackness, or else removed from black culture. ”

    The first stereotype fits and is numbered in the dead. The sonic wails at candle light vigils all over America’s urban core in tribute to another slain “terrorist”. The second sterotype, in my opinion, does not.

    Howard waits until the very end, to deliver his haymakers.

    Whitlock writes this on the Imus affair.

    “Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

    While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

    I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

    It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip-hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.”

    Howard writes this-

    “In just under 800 words, Whitlock found a way to berate 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rutgers head coach Vivian Stringer, hip hop, athletes who listen to hip hop, prison culture, black self-hatred, Dave Chappelle, BET, MTV, black-owned radio stations, crack cocaine, black-on-black crime, absent fathers, and black school bullies. ”

    Greg Howard’s insistance that the lack of an equal outcome in America to this point, is based on the usual culprits (Essentially, Insitutional Racism) and of course, neglects to even mention the trillions of dollars spent on Affirmative Action, quotas, Legislation, etc. etc. etc ad nauseum. Whitlock thinks the problem is the culture.

    Howard should have taken the job, now he has burned a bridge with the most important black journalist of his age. Like him or hate him, this guy will NOT go away. By the way, the Greg Howard article is an excellent read even if you, as I do, harshly disagree with the premise.

    • the dude says:

      Chuck, why would he want to take a job with a guy he does not respect for a website that sounds like it will never happen?

      • chuck says:

        That or a reasonable facsimile will happen. Jason is all over PTI and appears frequently on other ESPN shows. He is back in their good graces, the chastened pridigal son, returned to the fold, more mature and very aware of his lack of access to fame and money in his recent past.

        He’s a money ticket and Greg Howard bet on the wrong horse.

        • the dude says:

          Or he figured out big sessy’s schtick and wasn’t game for it.

        • admin says:

          As Glazer has noted, they’re using him as a guest on any number of ESPN shows – perhaps because he’s getting a paycheck but hasn’t yet begun the work he was hired to do.

          Given that Whitlock is less than beloved to his African American peers who view him as a sellout, and given that higher ups who supported him at the Star are very skeptical of his ability to mentor young writers, and given that he tends to flame out and either get fired or end up in ugly divorces, it’s hard to say whether Howard’s Ending was the right choice.

          As usual though, once again Jason is caught up in the middle of some unflattering controversies and conflicts.

          Guess we’ll see

  3. mike says:

    When he wrote for the Star, I didn’t particularly like him and usually disagreed with him. However, his column was usually about the first thing I read. He keeps getting hired for the same reason you have Glaze write on here. Even his haters read what he has to say. It is better to be disliked than ignored, because controversy is interesting and gets readership/ratings.

    • Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

      Which is the exact reason why buffoons like KK still have radio shows.

  4. Old Man Kissel says:

    I’m glad someone finally said the reason why Whitlock was hired. Just to shut him up.

    I found it interesting that Whitlock would leave Fox Sports just at the time they were starting their all sports channel. You would think that a, “Popular black sports talker” would have a spot in the fledging network. Any spot.

    Even if it’s Fox’s version of PTI….you would think Whitlock would have a spot in a network dying for content.

    So why wasn’t he be invited with open arms? My guess it that Fox knew Whitlock doesn’t get along with others and will eventually burn another bridge. So they kept him away from their network.

    But that’s just my guess.

    810 scoops 610 once again…

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