Thursday, January 21, 2010

Get Over Yourself, Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist on Fox Sports. He's had a long career of sports reporting, including a stint on The Sports Reporters Sunday mornings on ESPN. His perspective includes frequent discussions of racial topics and his distaste for Charlie Weis (though his attitude towards Weis isn't terribly regular anymore since Weis was recently fired as head coach at the University of Notre Dame).

Every week during the NFL season, Whitlock writes a column of 10 NFL truths. Below is an excerpt from this week's NFL truths:

8. It's mind blowing that ESPN's Mike Greenberg could accidently say "Martin Luther Coon" on national radio and TV on Martin Luther King's national holiday and ESPN take no punitive action.

I don't have any doubt that Greenberg regrets his mistake. I don't think his error necessarily paints Greenberg as a bigot. I don't think Greenberg should lose his job. But he should be required to do more than offer up a weak written apology. A short, paid suspension was warranted.

My tongue slips all the time. It's hard for me to fathom the King to Coon slip. King to Queen, King to Ding, King to Bling and King to Ring I totally get. King to Coon is off the table.

Greenberg has no discernible talent as a radio talk show host. ESPN pays him to say nothing and keep the "Mike and Mike" brand as non-controversial as humanly possible. He screwed up.

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I will be open and honest about my feelings for Whitlock. I don't like him. This isn't the first time he wrote a piece that I vehemently disagreed with (Interestingly enough the last piece he wrote that I thought was completely nuts was centered around race as well). He may be entitled to his views and opinions, but this is the second time he completely missed the point.

It's pretty clear that Greenberg had a simple slip of the tongue on the air. What most likely happened was he had essentially blended the words "King" and "Junior" into one term and caught himself halfway through it. It was simply unfortunate that blending the words together ending up sounding like "Coon." Sure, Whitlock realizes that Greenberg isn't in fact a bigot or racist at all. I'm also glad that he isn't calling for Greenberg to be fired. Had he made either statement I would be far more annoyed than I am. However, he's taking a simple slip of the tongue here to an extreme.

He's actually recommending that ESPN suspend Greenberg??? For how long? A day? A week? On the grounds of what? Greenberg wasn't making any kind of joke when he misspoke. He doesn't need to go to any sensitivity training. He certainly doesn't need to be suspended. Whitlock is taking up the Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson torch here by overreacting. All Greenberg needed to do was issue a simple apology (which he did, as Whitlock had acknowledged), and everything would be forgotten.

Whitlock still has a bone with ESPN after being fired from the network 4 years ago. He is entitled to his opinion over whether or not Greenberg is a decent radio personality. I think Greenberg is fine; my beef with his morning show is how he and Mike Golic repeat segments two or three times during the course of each show they do, but that's no fault of theirs. For Whitlock to take his beef with ESPN out on Greenberg is unprofessional and unfair.

To further make my point, flip the situation around. Suppose a black sports radio personality made a comment about a white person whose last name was similar to "Cracker." Would Whitlock be crying for the radio host's suspension? I doubt it. It would most likely be seen as funny for a moment, and then we'd all go on with our lives. Maybe Whitlock should have thought about that before jumping to such wild conclusions.

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