It feels counter-intuitive to muster much sympathy for a man who has literally made millions of dollars in his professional career by hawking Sbarro-heated-lamp-temperature takes on race and pop culture to the highest possible bidders and lowest possible denominators. And who was given the keys to the greatest resourced Black digital publication ever but was so incompetent, paranoid, and self-destructive that they had to fire him before it launched to prevent him from sabotaging it. He was hired to be an architect but proved to be an arsonist. And who has burned so many bridges with his relentless streams of low-information bombast bukkake (ht Huny) that in order for him to burn another bridge he'd have to build it himself first.
But as his name trended for most of the day yesterday for A) criticizing Lebron's response to "nigger" spray-painted on his fence, B) dismissing racism as something only poor Black people need to worry about, and C) peppering his diarrhea of consciousness by comparing himself to Oprah (???), my first response was pity. I know, from pieces I've read about Whitlock, pieces I've read by Whitlock, and conversations I've had with people who know him, that he desperately wants to be considered a thought leader. Someone who cultivates, incubates, and creates the types of pieces and opinions and words and ideas that stand the test of time. He wants to be taken seriously. And the terribly stupid things he says and does are a mark of a man who recognizes those goals are far out of his reach, but still attempts to grasp for relevance, like a pit bull chasing behind a fucking Ferrari. Extending the car metaphor, he's an 1998 Altima who wishes to be an Aston Martin. And knows he's not and will never be an Aston Martin. But puts Aston rims on his tires and an Aston emblem on his bumper, hoping someone maybe might think he's one and ask him to race.
But not only is he not taken seriously, he's become such an easy punchline and punching bag that he's virtually radioactive. As far as Black sportswriters/reporters go, he's probably one of the three or four most recognizable names. Yet literally zero of his peers — well, zero of his peers who aren't currently employed by Fox — would dare cosign anything he says. Just being associated with a Whitlock tweet is like having digital mono. Athletes collectively hate him. And not the type of "hate" that's comprised of the garden variety skepticism some athletes have towards the media. But actual "if I see that nigga in the street, I'll slap the shit out of him" hate. Black Twitter — and by "Black Twitter" I mean "literally every Black person on Twitter with any sort of relevance and working brain cells" — despises him. His "Black people with brains" approval rating is at zero. This is a friendless nigga. Even OJ had Al Cowlings. Whitlock has…hats.
Adding insult to injury is the reality that there seems to be nothing he can do to reverse the "Whitlock is a vapid shitbag" narrative. He will not be given another platform to lead. That ship done sailed. His opinions, even the few that aren't spellbindingly terrible, will continue to be dismissed and ridiculed as the rantings of an awkwardly fedoraed Ruckus. But most importantly, he doesn't seem to have it in him to be anything other than what he currently is. He did this to himself.