It’s Good Friday, and I hope all of you are set for a fun Easter weekend. We’ve got the Final Four tomorrow and baseball is back in full swing. The Masters is close, weather is getting warmer, and all the absurd COVID restrictions are pretty much collapsing all over the country.
Plus, if you’ve got kids, it’s little league season — I’m coaching and our first game Tuesday. So we’re off and running with baseball here. And, as always, it’s time for the Friday mailbag.
But first, if you take Gonzaga to beat UCLA tomorrow, you can bet $5 and new users get back $200. That’s a 40-1 value for people in Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Seriously, it’s an insane offer. Go take your free money.
Okay, here we go with your questions:
“The Texans seem to be making some moves to shore up some cap room, pointing to them potentially trying to shop Deshaun Watson but do you think any teams will be interested with what is looming over him?”
I don’t see how any team could trade for Watson at this point, at least not based on what we’ve come to expect in terms of multiple first rounders as a trade price.
There’s just too much uncertainty about his situation. I always try to think in terms of probabilities because perfect certainty is rare. That is, it’s hard to know exactly what will happen with any complex situation. So you need to analyze a large range of potential outcomes. If you believe the probabilities have moved in your favor because the risk factors have been oversold — this is what happened, for instance, with sports gambling stocks last March — then you can take advantage of those market inefficiencies. But you need to have good information and confidence in your ability to analyze situations in order to pounce.
So let’s apply this line of thinking to Deshaun Watson’s case.
Right now, the range of Watson outcomes is still too substantial to create clear value. On the low end, Watson will be suspended for six games and probably not play for most of the 2021 football season. On the high end, Watson could be charged with multiple criminal cases of sexual assault, go to jail, and never play football again.
That’s a massive range, which is why the only way I’d be willing to make a trade would be if the Texans were eager to give Watson away. (Which is the opposite of the position they’ve had for months now.) You’d also have to be nervous about the Texans’ changed perspective and worry that they have better intelligence on the Watson situation than you do. In other words, if the Texans are suddenly trying to move on from Watson, are they trying to fleece you?
That means the overall asking price would have to be much lower than it was a month ago. So what’s the asking price where I’d make the trade if I were an owner? Well, Watson’s talents are certainly worthy of a second- or third-round pick. Far above it, actually. If you gave a second-round pick for Watson and he never played again, I think you could still consider the risk/reward to be on your side.
But what about a first-round pick? What if the Texans were willing to trade Watson right now for a single first-round pick? Would anyone be willing to take that risk/reward? Maybe. But would the Texans be willing to take that compensation when just a month ago they might have gotten three first-rounders for Watson? I don’t know.
That’s probably where the market is at this exact time, a single first-round pick. How high in the first round would probably be part of the debate too. I think it would have to be below the spot in the first round where you could draft a quarterback this year, so probably in the 12ish range.
Plus, it’s not just the trade itself, it’s the reaction to the trade. Most owners are hyper sensitive to criticism. Do billionaire owners want to take on all the media criticism — and potential #metoo scrutiny — that might follow a decision like this?
I doubt, for instance, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is trading for Watson, given Kraft’s own massage parlor criminal charges a couple years ago. (I do wish he’d do it though. I think, in general, that there’s far too much fear of the media out there. If I were an owner and I believed in Watson and thought I was getting a good value in the trade, I’d just power through the criticism and negative publicity. What can your critics really do to you if you’re a billionaire? I just don’t get it. I mean, lots of people don’t like me in the media. Why should I care at all about that? If I were a billionaire, I’d care even less than I do now, which is nearly zero.)
Anyway, the larger point here is that, based on the uncertainty surrounding Watson’s legal situation, the asking price would have to plummet in order for there to be a true trade market. Watson might be worth a first-round pick. Would any team take that risk? Would the Texans take the risk that Watson might emerge relatively unscathed from this mess and they’d have traded him away for far less than his value than if they’d just waited six months or so for all this to clear up?
It’s a fascinating market gamble, honestly.
Watson is like a stock that could be a ten-bagger or could go to zero. And there’s probably not much middle ground.
So what happens? It will be fascinating to see.
“Will you compare how the media and the NBA has handled the Kevin Durant private DM controversy versus how they handled the Meyers Leonard controversy?”
For those who don’t know, NBA player Meyers Leonard uttered an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game and was suspended for a week, fined $50,000 and then essentially kicked out of the league.
Kevin Durant sent a series of wildly racist and homophobic direct messages to a man on Twitter, and no one said anything.
It’s just further evidence of the fact that cancel culture in sports plays favorites based on the race of the speaker. Kevin Durant gets no punishment at all — hardly anyone even utters a word of criticism in the woke sports media — and Leonard’s career may be over. Now, granted, Durant is a much better player than Leonard, but his comments were FAR worse than what Leonard was suspended and fined for and nothing happened to him at all.
Sure, you can argue that the standard is based on public vs. private speech, but the NBA made Donald Sterling sell his team based on private comments that were illegally recorded by his mistress. So the NBA’s own precedent for punishment doesn’t distinguish between public vs. private comments.
It’s not just the NBA either. You can look at Kyle Larson as well. He was suspended by NASCAR for an entire year for using a racial slur while playing a video game. Durant’s comments were far worse than Larson’s single comment.
Regular readers of OutKick know that I’m opposed to identity politics and cancel culture. I’m not demanding Durant be punished for his Twitter DMs, but I do want the sports media standard to be evenly applied. If you support cancel culture penalties for Leonard and Larson, how do you not support them for Durant as well?
What this does is just further illuminate the absurdity and rank hypocrisy of cancel culture and identity politics. We’ve created different standards of speech based on who the speaker is. Durant, as a black man, is allowed to hurl racist and homophobic slurs at a white guy. But if a white guy said the same things to Durant, he’d be canceled in an instant.
The reason why I think the same standard should apply for all people is because even more people would reject cancel culture and identity politics if the standards of behavior were evenly applied to everyone.
Right now, that’s not happening at all.
“Take I heard recently: 20 years ago, ca. 9/11, the Republicans were the party of elitist fear-mongering authoritarianism & the Democrats were focused on individual liberty & more representative of the people as a whole. Today, the parties have completely switched. Thoughts?”
I’ve said this for years and wrote the same thing in my most recent book.
Politics is often laden with hypocrisy, which is why I’m generally skeptical of aligning fully with any one side or the other. Because over decades, the parties can flip what they believe pretty substantially. I’ll give you an early example that blew my mind: I was in college in Washington, D.C. during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial. I was working in a Democratic congressman’s office and one of my jobs during that time was to open the mail with all the constituent impeachment opinions and stack them in piles. The side in favor of impeachment was far higher than the side against it. (People who were for impeachment were much more likely to be active than people who were against it or just didn’t care).
I occupied as low of a level inside a congressman’s office as you could occupy — I was literally the guy opening mail and counting opinions.
What I saw during the Clinton impeachment was that many of the long serving congressmen or senators who were in office back during the Nixon impeachment, both Democrats and Republicans, had the exact opposite opinions with Clinton as they’d had with Nixon. That is, Democrats adopted Republican impeachment comments and Republicans often adopted Democratic impeachment comments. Effectively many of the politicians had adopted the exact opposite positions based on the political party of the accused.
I remember being blown away by how blatant the hypocrisy was and by how little attention it received.
I obviously wasn’t a public figure then, but as I continued my education and went on to law school and became a public figure, I’ve endeavored to ensure that my opinions are consistent, like a good judge’s opinions would be. That is, instead of adopting often hypocritical politicians as role models, I’ve tried to remain consistent to my principles, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.
Which is why I think if you went back and read, for instance, the past ten years of columns I’ve written on this site, you’d find that they’re logically consistent. That’s because I write and speak my opinions with the idea of avoiding hypocrisy in mind. I want to put forth the same principles year after year. I’m going to treat Brett Kavanaugh and Deshaun Watson the exact same.
That’s very rare in our modern culture and in media as well.
Over the past twenty years, the parties have completely switched positions, particularly as it relates to acceptable speech. An easy analogy to use: Bill Maher lost his television show for saying the 9/11 terrorists weren’t cowards. His logic was that dying for what you believe in is the opposite of cowardice. I agreed with that take and disagreed with his firing over that statement. So did most Democrats.
But now the positions of the parties have flipped when it comes to issues of free speech. Now believing that someone shouldn’t be canceled for what they say is a Republican position. That’s why I always say I haven’t changed what I believe in. The world has shifted around me.
It used to be that believing in a robust and uninhibited First Amendment was a liberal Democratic position. Now it’s considered a conservative Republican position. That’s wild. I’ve stayed in the exact same place over the past generation, and the parties have completely flipped around me, moving me (in the mind’s of the media who write about me) from a left winger to a right winger.
But, again, I haven’t moved at all.
This, to me, is strong evidence of how much political labeling is total bullshit.
But it’s not just there. Remember when Republicans used to try to get music, movies and books banned over offensive content? Now Democrats are the ones leading that charge.
I never would have believed it was possible that the left wing in this country would become the joke police, trying to get comedians canceled over jokes they don’t like, but here we are. That happens every day.
Again, my perspective hasn’t changed. The world has changed around me.
And, of course, what these issues have in common is power. Political parties aren’t committed to ideas as much as they’re committed to power. For me, ideas, and the advocacy of ideas, should be logical and consistent. But for many in politics, the common thread to hypocrisy is the pursuit of power.
Cancel culture isn’t about making America better, it’s about who has the power to determine what can and can’t be said. The more powerful you are — and right now, the left wing in this country is the most powerful — the more excessive your overreach with that power often is.
Bill Maher wasn’t canceled because what he said on TV was dangerous or unacceptable. He was canceled because he offered a nuanced take on a polarizing issue and the party with all the power then, Republicans, didn’t want that position permitted on television. Maher was a lesson to others: defy us and this is what happens to you.
And that’s what is happening all over the country on a daily basis now. Cancel culture and identity politics aren’t about remedying America’s flaws or the quest to make the country better. They’re about power, pure and simple.
“Re: Georgia corporations and sports franchises
Is there a state of being for executives more worthy of mockery, ridicule, and removal than that of being uninformed and cowardly?”
I don’t think it’s being uninformed or cowardly. I think it’s (mostly) being white guys in positions of power who are terrified of ending up the target of woke mobs and getting canceled themselves.
So you get these performative absurdities, like what’s happening with the responses to the Georgia voting rules. I’ve had time to research this issue now, and it’s an entirely made up controversy. Georgia’s voting rules are less restrictive than states like Delaware, which Joe Biden has represented for decades without uttering a word of criticism, and Colorado, which is hardly anyone’s idea of a deep red state. Indeed, there are many deep blue states with more restrictive voting policies than Georgia.
But one thing you realize being in media is most people aren’t very smart in my industry. They go where they’re told to go. True intellectual fearlessness is rare. An original thought is even rarer. Most people in all industries, but particularly in media, are sheep.
It takes courage to say what most aren’t saying. Because if you speak out publicly against the prevailing narrative, you risk getting overwhelmed by woke mobs that come for you. I think I’ve fought so many battles in our industry that I’ve emerged on the other side of the woke mob and sports media has had to acknowledge they can’t cancel me. So I feel even freer now to look at the facts and say exactly what I think than I did a decade ago.
But there are many people who don’t have that freedom.
And many of these people are terrified.
If you’re the CEO of Coke or Delta or whatever company is based in Georgia — and you’re a white guy in charge — you can put out these maudlin, handwringing, pathetic comments in an effort to keep you and your company from being the target of a woke mob.
You’re making millions of dollars a year, and unfortunately, rather than focus on your job as CEO — which is to maximize profit and revenue — you are worried about preserving your own job as opposed to doing what’s best for the company.
That’s what this is really about — CEOs doing whatever they think they have to do to keep their jobs. Again, it’s all about power. If you genuflect to the woke mob, you hope they will move on and find a new target.
“Will kneeling during the National Anthem be an issue at the Summer Olympics? Could this negatively impact television ratings?”
I think kneeling is very played out for most sports fans, honestly.
It’s braver now, crazily, to stand for the anthem than it is to kneel.
But I do wonder how many people who watch the Olympics are non-traditional sports fans and may find kneeling while representing the United States to be more offensive than doing it while playing other sports. In other words, the kneeling controversy may hit a new audience of more patriotic fans.
Olympic viewership indexes higher in Republican states, so this may create more of a conflict.
I also think kneeling at the Olympics is going to be used as propaganda by America’s adversaries, which I believe is the bigger story here.
The woke sports media will argue, “See, this is what makes American freedoms so powerful. We can kneel to protest things in our country even during the national anthem at the Olympics. Other countries could never do that.”
Which is true.
But that’s not the message our adversaries are going to take from the kneeling. China will use our athletes kneeling during the Olympics as evidence that America’s democracy is completely broken. And their people — and their allies in the media — will see that as evidence of China’s authoritarian government being superior to America’s democratic one.
That’s what most American athletes don’t realize. They are doing China’s job for them. By attacking America, they’re elevating China and allowing the Chinese governments to propagandize against us. China would never allow its athletes to kneel during their anthem to oppose governmental policies. That form of protest is not seen as a strength in most places in the world. It’s seen as a weakness.
Kneeling during your country’s national anthem at the Olympics, to me, is like showing up at a wedding and giving a groom or bride toast where you ridicule the flaws of the couple during the toast. Sure, you can say, “See, I was brave enough to talk about the bad things in their relationship!” when you get criticized by most people at the wedding.
“Pointing out the flaws of their relationship at their wedding actually makes them stronger!”
I mean, I guess, in that both the bride and the groom are united in both hating you.
People didn’t come to the wedding so you could rip off the scabs of their relationship and talk about all the scars you’ve witnessed or the things that are imperfect or flawed about this couple’s union. They came to celebrate the triumph of a relationship, despite the myriad challenges along the way. That’s what I think the Olympics often are, a celebration of triumphs, not a recitation of failures.
So I think kneeling during the national anthem — which the American media will trumpet as heroism — really just encourages and enables America’s foes, who have a fraction of the freedoms we do.
Also, this is just evidence of how little things have changed with Joe Biden in office. Wasn’t Biden supposed to cure all this angst? It sure hasn’t happened.
What are left-wing athletes protesting now? Their great Satan, Donald Trump, is out of office. They have the presidency, the Senate, the House. What more do they want? I’ll tell you: complete and total power. They want anyone who disagrees with them on anything silenced. That’s the real goal here.
History is often circular, which is why I think Joe Biden is really just Lyndon Johnson, a long time senator who got elected because of a major calamity — JFK’s assassination in the case of LBJ and COVID in the case of Biden. Just like LBJ, Biden is rushing through a major checklist of left-wing governmental solutions. And he’s bending the Senate to his will in the process.
If you buy into this historical analogy, then we are poised for a major swing back to more mainstream conservative governance in the years ahead. Other than Watergate, which cost the Republicans the election in 1976, Republicans won every election from 1972 until 1992 after the counter culture revolution of the late 1960s. In this historical analogy, COVID is our modern day Vietnam.
I think people will crave calm starting in 2024 — to be honest, Biden ran on a platform of stability and has embarked on the most left-wing agenda in most of our lives — and a return to the embrace of traditional American values. And I think that era could be incredibly durable.
At least I hope it will.
Because the other historical analogy you could make is that Biden is FDR during the New Deal and we’re heading for another World War, only this time against China.
As always, thanks for reading OutKick, and I hope you guys have a fantastic weekend.