Sports journalist Jason Whitlock has sparked controversy when he claimed that because NBA player LeBron James is wealthy, he is not susceptible to racism.
On Thursday, June 1st, Whitlock appeared on the radio show The Herd to address the recent incident where James’ home was tagged with graffiti that consisted of various racial slurs. “He allegedly had the N-word spray-painted on his $20 million home,” says Whitlock, “racism is an issue in America. But it is primary an issue for the poor.” He added that “It is not LeBron James’ issue. He has removed himself from the damages and ravages of real racism.”
Needless to say, social media has not taken well to Whitlock, and has openly criticized his remarks. Learn more about the journalist and his social views here.
1. Whitlock Hosts the Show ‘Speak for Yourself’
Jason Whitlock has worked in sports journalism for over twenty years. As a youth, he was an all-state offensive lineman at Warren Central High School in Warren Township in Indianapolis, where he played opposite Jeff George, who would go on to become the first overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. Whitlock attended Ball State University on a football scholarship, where he graduated with a degree in journalism.
After college, Whitlock worked for The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Indiana, as well as a reporter for The Charlotte Observer. In 1994, he was hired by the Kanas City Star, where he worked for the rest of the decade and was the first sports writer to win the National Journalism Award for commentary. He subsequently joined ESPN as a column writer in 2002, and has since bounced around as a guest host on various ESPN shows like Jim Rome Is Burning and Pardon the Interruption. He currently serves as the co-host of the daily show Speak for Yourself opposite Colin Cowherd.
2. He Launched A Website Focused On Race & Sports
Controversy, it seems follows Whitlock wherever he seems to appear. In 2015, fellow journalist Greg Howard, penned a scathing piece on a website that Whitlock was attempting to get off the ground. Titled The Undefeated, the site was meant as a hub for critical writing on sports, as well as racial issues. According to USA Today, Howard depicted Whitlock as “someone with a grand vision but a narrow focus,” and
Whitlock subsequently appeared on Dan LeBetard’s radio show to address these allegations, saying he’d chosen to write about race because it was “an important lane” in sportswriting, and one that is not delved into nearly enough. Whitlock added that he and his staff (which Howard was reportedly offered to join) are “trying to do the best sports journalism that’s ever been done and we want to do it consistently.” The Undefeated officially launched on May 16th, 2016 and remains active. Whitlock no longer serves as the the site’s overseer, as he was replaced by Kevin Merida after what he deemed were “numerous reasons, including my belief that I could manage like a football coach.”
3. He Previously Compared LeBron James to Donald Trump
In February of this year, Whitlock made headlines for his remarks involving LeBron James and Nike’s “Equality” ad campaign. The journalist proceeded to belittle James and accuse him of black elitism, citing his height and physical stature as proof that he won the “genetic lottery.” Whitlock said that he was “100 percent in promotion of fairness and equality… in a real way. This isn’t real. This is a scam.” He added that because Tiger Woods stepped out of the Nike campaign, it proved that there wasn’t much merit to it. Watch the a
Whitlock continued with his controversial remarks, claiming that “Athletic privilege works a lot like wealth privilege… There is not a great deal of difference between LeBron James and Donald Trump when it comes to being an elite person and a privileged person… They’re going down the wrong path and they’re dragging you all down the wrong path.”
4. He Believes James Is Playing A ‘Victim’ Role
On the controversial episode of The Herd (which you can stream above), Whitlock continued with his remarks about LeBron James and his vandalized home. He chastised James for drawing comparisons between himself and Emmett Till, an African American man who was lynched Mississippi in 1955. “He may have an occasional disrespectful interaction with someone,” he says regarding James, but “LeBron needs to quite embracing his victimhood as it’s a terrible message for black people.”
“LeBron’s comment about ‘No matter how rich you are, no matter how famous you are, it’s tough being black in America.’ That is a lie,” adds Whitlock, “It’s not tough being Oprah Winfrey, it’s not tough being LeBron James, it’s not tough being Jason Whitlock.” The journalist concluded his statement by saying: “This message that we’re constantly pumping out to young black people that we’re just victims and the worst thing in the world is to be black in America, it’s just not true.”
5. He’s Received Backlash On Social Media
Whitlock’s comments sparked outrage on social media, with many feeling that he was ignoring greater social issues to demean James or to criticize him in particular. “Jason Whitlock is so sad,” writes one Twitter user, “Please stop him. He has no right to tell anyone how to feel about racism towards THEM.” Another user wrote “You need to stop going to Jason Whitlock for the black perspective because he is so out of touch.”
Other critiques of Whitlock saw his likeness photoshopped into various subservient roles in pop culture, including the housekeeper in the seminal film Gone With the Wind (1939) or the villainous house slave played by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012).
Whitlock responded to this backlash on Twitter, saying “We should worry about people who are actually impacted by it [racism]. The Rich’s problems are inconsequential.” He added that he will expand upon this opinion on Speak for Yourself: