After a lengthy stint at ESPN, former NFL Pro Bowler-turned-sports commentator Marcellus Wiley expressed his desire to pursue greener pastures at Fox Sports in 2018. I was a big fan of his previous show, SportsNation, and looked forward to him expanding upon his unique skill set of league experience, eloquence—though not of the over-the-top Stephen A. Smith variety—and charisma. Then he revealed that of all the goddamn people, he’d be joining Jason fucking Whitlock for a new show called Speak for Yourself and all hell broke loose in his Instagram comments.
With his bag secured, Wiley tried his best to toe the company line and assure us all that we should give the show a chance before assuming the worst, but with well over a decade of harmful rhetoric to Whitlock’s credit, that routinely undermines both black progress and agency, therefore unnecessarily endangering our lives, I refused to do so.
Because Jason Whitlock would inevitably say something stupid.
In the time since Speak for Yourself premiered, it’s gone to great lengths to create a very much-needed conduit for talented black commentators. Day after day, you’ll see familiar faces like former NBA star Jim Jackson, three-time Pro Bowler LaVar Arrington and Bengals great TJ Houshmandzadeh blend insight and barbershop humor while discussing the news and topics of the day. But far too often, what you won’t see is any of those above—Wiley included—check Whitlock for inevitably saying something stupid.
Unfortunately, instead of secluding Whitlock’s penchant for respectability politics and willful ignorance to television, both tend to bleed into other platforms—like social media. And on Wednesday, after LeBron James expressed his outrage at the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was gunned down by two white men while jogging in a Southern Georgia suburb, Whitlock did what Whitlock does.
“This isn’t helpful. It’s Twitter trolling,” Whitlock whitlocked. “It’s using this man’s tragedy to build a brand as more outspoken than Michael Jordan. There are all kinds of ways to draw attention to this tragedy. Suggesting that [black people] are hunted every day/every time is just shit-stirring.”
Imagine being so apathetic to the plight of your own people that you misconstrue genuine grief as an inhumane ploy to amplify a brand that’s already worth almost half a billion dollars. Mind you, this is the same guy who once said that LeBron is too rich to experience “real racism,” so the full extent of his stupidity has a precedent.
But then again, this is the same guy who condemned the Jena 6 and has made it his mission in life to mock Colin Kaepernick at every given opportunity. So while his jab at LeBron’s outrage is unsurprising, Whitlock’s adherence to being on the wrong side of history is as revolting as it is well-documented.
Because he’s a special kind of stupid.
Not because he isn’t intelligent, but because he willingly sacrifices his integrity time and time and time again in order to either minimize or derail social issues that directly impact our lives.
He’s Ben Carson in blackface.
And as much as I’d love to suggest that we just collectively go about our lives and ignore him, the real problem is that there are far too many politicians, teachers and others who directly influence our lives—and look nothing like us—that don’t.