Rejoice, you’ve made it to another Friday and the weekend beckons.
It has been a wild week in sports and we aren’t even to the NFL Draft yet, which promises to be incredibly wild as well.
As always, the Friday mailbag is here to make you smarter, so let’s dive right in:
“It’s painfully obvious that no one in the national sports media will challenge LeBron on anything. But you’re also in the sports media – can you get access to any press the Lakers hold to actually ask him tough questions face to face or will the Lakers just weed you out?”
Asking athletes questions has gotten far more complicated since COVID. I don’t know how often the Lakers make LeBron available for questions, but it doesn’t happen very often, and they can select which questions are asked because they all occur via Zoom.
I do believe in a post-COVID era, particularly in the playoffs when players address full rooms of media, that it would be possible to ask LeBron a question, but he can just ignore it and it’s hard to follow up because they almost immediately move on to the next person.
What’s really needed is a sit down interview or a full room of questioners with LeBron fielding questions for an hour or more, like politicians do at their news conferences. The way that athletes address the media now isn’t designed for significant questioning. It’s to offer an opportunity for an athlete to talk about a game that just ended or is about to be played.
I mean, think about it. Have you ever seen LeBron do a twenty minute live interview on any radio or TV station in his entire career? I haven’t. That’s because his people protect him from live interviews like this. That’s fine when you’re just talking about basketball, but if you’re going to hold yourself out as a political figure, I think you should get questioned aggressively on your political beliefs. That’s what we do to political figures in this country, and I think it’s what we should do to athletes who want to get involved in politics.
What happens now is LeBron gets treated with kid gloves by the sports media who lets him get away with saying anything. No one in the political arena probes his opinions and comments, demonstrating how inconsistent they are.
The question this raises is: why do sports media give LeBron a pass when he says something idiotic of a political nature? I think it’s a two part answer: 1. Most sports media agree with LeBron’s political opinions. So since he’s on “their side,” they don’t hold him accountable for his idiocy. 2. Sports media who may disagree with LeBron politically — and while they are a minority of the sports media, there are still many of them — are terrified that if they aggressively question LeBron, they could potentially lose their jobs and/or become the target of a Twitter mob. Given that many sports media are white guys, these reporters could also be branded racist for questioning a black guy’s political beliefs. The result is that almost no one in sports media holds LeBron accountable for his political comments. My industry, as a whole, is terrified of speaking truth to power. So you end up with this strange conspiracy of LeBron silence where OutKick is just about the only place in sports media that will hold LeBron accountable.
And LeBron himself gets to play a rigged game. When he says something political without sounding stupid, he gets praised for it to the high heavens. When he screws up like he did with the Columbus, Ohio police officer this week and sounds insanely stupid, it gets pretty much ignored. It’s a rigged game. LeBron only wins when he talks politics.
But it’s not just LeBron. This is the way things always are in sports. It’s a clear double standard. Heck, Brett Favre is getting criticized more for saying he doesn’t think Derek Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd — something that the prosecutors themselves agreed with — than LeBron is for doxing a police officer who saved a woman’s life.
As I’ve said for years, I’d welcome LeBron, Steve Kerr, Greg Popovich, Megan Rapinoe, Colin Kaepernick, essentially any of the woke all-stars in sports on my show. And I’d even go on their shows too, so long as it was live and they didn’t edit anything I said.
But these woke stars live in media bubbles and only interact with people who will praise them. The result is weak opinions. Because when you live in a world where you never get challenged, you don’t strengthen your own opinions or challenge your own mind to think more broadly and more intelligently. This isn’t just a problem in sports, by the way. The same thing happens in media in general.
I’d love to have Joe Biden on my radio show. Just like I loved having Donald Trump on my show. But Biden won’t come on my show because he’s afraid to do it. The same is true for New York governor Andrew Cuomo and California governor Gavin Newsom. I think that’s a shame because I’ve shown I’ll be fair to everyone and let them say their piece on my show. It’s not like I hang up on guests or scream at them if I disagree. I try to let them have their say and push back where I disagree with them.
But that’s not permissible these days. Everyone has to be on the same team or they won’t even talk with each other.
“If Twitter is adding editorial commentary in their what’s happening/trending section, doesn’t that make them a publisher?”
I think there’s a strong argument that the answer is yes.
Who are the people writing editorial summations of what’s trending on Twitter? And how do they collate the stories that trend? And what happens when, as clearly happened with the LeBron James story, Twitter doesn’t accurately describe the trending story itself?
“Referencing” is an interesting word choice here @twitter. I’d suggest threatening, doxing, & picturing, at a minimum, would all be more accurate. Not to mention the person shot was attempting murder when she was killed. This headline is highly partisan and biased. pic.twitter.com/paI9BK5Alv
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) April 22, 2021
These are all monstrously important questions that I think many people miss. Twitter makes clear editorial decisions every day and even has people writing editorial copy, as you can see above. So how are they not a publisher within this context of their business?
The distinction between a publisher and a platform is important because publishers don’t have the protections of Section 230. And if publishers don’t have those protections, they’d have to be more fair.
Finally, I would just point out that saying algorithms make the decisions about what is featured on Twitter in the trending topics, as some do, doesn’t protect Twitter from the publishing argument either. Because algorithms are designed by people. And people can adjust an algorithm to ensure the stories are ones they want to see featured. So an algorithm designed by a human, in my mind, is also a form of publishing.
It’s clear to me that Twitter is acting as a publisher. Not only that, arguably Twitter is the most powerful publisher in the entire country, since many media entities make their decisions on what to cover based on what’s trending on Twitter. Given that Twitter decides what’s trending, this means Twitter is setting the national media agenda in the country on most days.
“Could the NFL’s ‘New Number’ policy extend to Joe Biden’s proposed Capital Gains Tax? I’d love to see that get a single digit number.”
First, I like the NFL’s new single digit policy.
Second, it seems fundamentally unfair to me that a tax increase on capital gains can be made retroactive.
We’ve had people making financial decisions for all of January, February, March and April under the existing laws and tax rates and then suddenly you’re going to retroactively tell them the tax rate has changed after they completed those deals? Well, many people might have made different decisions if they’d known their long term capital gains tax rate was going to be over 43% instead of 20%. Heck if you’re in New York, that rate would be 52.2%, and if you’re in California, that rate would be 56.7%. How can a move like this be justified when supposedly we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we have to ensure as much stimulus in the country as possible?
Intuitively making a tax decrease retroactive makes sense — you’re giving people more money than they otherwise would have had to allow them to spend more and increase economic output — but making a tax increase retroactive just feels like it’s totally antithetical to fair play.
And I haven’t even sold any stocks yet in 2021! So I’m not having to deal with any of these tax bills yet.
But I think a ton of these Robin Hood traders who have been buying and selling stocks like crazy are suddenly going to realize how much of a mess their tax returns are going to be in the near future, and I think at an absolute minimum the tax increases should be pushed to the start of 2022.
“When do you predict our blue state governors will look at the data from Florida and Texas and realize that the government interventions have done very little? In Minnesota, they want us to test school age kids every 2 weeks and weekly if they are playing sports. Insanity.”
I believe the reason Florida governor Ron DeSantis is being attacked so aggressively is for this exact reason. Florida’s numbers are nearly identical to California’s, and Florida has been open for the past year while California has had the most draconian lockdowns in the country.
The numbers from Florida and Texas, as compared with California, both prove that lockdowns didn’t work and did very little to stop the spread of COVID. If every state had done what Florida and Texas did, then millions more people would still be employed and kids would have been in school for the past year.
My hope is that as the COVID madness fades, more sober examinations of the decision-making are written and we eventually have a Vietnam-esque consensus reached. Remember, the best and brightest minds in America, the so-called experts, were all in favor of the Vietnam War too. And they got it all wrong. But it took years for that to emerge as a consensus view in this country. I think COVID is modern-day America’s Vietnam.
Just as Vietnam unleashed a massive societal transformation in the 1960s in this country, the same thing has happened with COVID. The interesting question is this: will this modern-day frenzy also lead to the same outcome in the country as happened after Vietnam?
Remember, after the tumult of the 1960s, America craved normalcy, and we ended up with a rise of conservatism and Republican domination in the White House. Republicans won in 1968, 1972, lost in 1976 because of Watergate, and then won again in 1980, 1984, and 1988. It wasn’t until Bill Clinton broke through in 1992 that we started our see saw governance patterns. Democrats win twice, Republicans win twice, Democrats win twice, Republican wins, Democrat wins.
So will the same thing happen in our post-COVID era as happened in the post-Vietnam era? It’s going to be fascinating to find out.
“I will be attending the Indianapolis 500 next month. I have great tickets, and I’ve been going with my boys for years. I’m vaccinated. 2 of my 3 boys are vaccinated. It’s the largest outdoor sports venue in the world. Why do I have to wear a mask?”
It makes absolutely zero sense for vaccinated people to wear masks outdoors, at sporting events or otherwise.
I think the government’s vaccine messaging on this has been a complete mess. To me, the best way to sell the vaccine is by telling people they can get back to complete normalcy as soon as they get vaccinated. As is, people are being told their behavior isn’t allowed to change. So what incentive do people on the fence have to get vaccinated?
At this point we have vaccinated, at least with the first shot, well over half of the adults in this country. Given the additional numbers of people who have already had COVID — probably 100 million or more based on CDC estimates — we have to be approaching 65% or 70% of American adults who have either been vaccinated or exposed to COVID. (We don’t know how many people have had COVID and how many people have had COVID and been vaccinated, so getting an exact number here is tough.)
I suspect our next battle, which is already brewing, is going to come in the next three or four weeks when there will be way more vaccines available than there are people who want them. Because then our national vaccination rollout will begin to slow down, and the debate will shift to whether vaccine passports are appropriate.
My position is pretty straightforward: now that any American adult can get a vaccine who wants one, I don’t understand how there are any restrictions at all, for sports or otherwise.
We should be 100% open.
“Do you think people are actually getting dumber? Reading Twitter comments vs. letters from our founding fathers is pretty strong proof.”
Well, remember that our founding fathers were the smartest people in the country and that the vast majority of the country was very uneducated at the time of America’s founding. So you’re comparing the smartest people in the past with the people of the most average intelligence today.
I think the overall intelligence of Americans is increasing because intelligence is often connected to having enough food, good health, and safety. Our country has never been wealthier, and we’ve essentially eliminated, for instance, any food shortage here. That is, no one dies from lack of food. This is a good thing because the more time you spend battling for the basic necessities in life, the less time you have to get a good education. The poorer a country is, on average, the less well educated its citizens are.
But what I do think has happened — and I’ve been writing on this for a long time now — is many people, even intelligent people, aren’t able to handle the incessant barrage of news on social media and they become captured by two things: 1. an inability to tell what is fact and what is opinion, what is truth and what is falsehood and 2. their worldviews become created by viral anecdote as a result.
Something goes viral on social media, typically, because it’s abnormal.
Every police shooting, as an example, is abnormal because police shootings represent a tiny percentage of overall police and citizen interactions. Police shootings of black people by white cops are an even tinier part of the overall interactions between police and black people, making them abnormal on top of another abnormality. But there are enough of these incidents to create the viral narrative that white police are regularly killing innocent black people.
It only takes three or four viral anecdotes like these to dominate the news cycle, potentially for years. As we just saw with Derek Chauvin and George Floyd. (A story, which, despite being suffused with racial coverage, didn’t really have to be racial in nature. In other words, shouldn’t a jury have found the exact same result if Floyd were white and Chauvin were black? Or if one person were Asian and the other were Hispanic? Or if both people were Asian, Hispanic, white or black?) Yet the media decided to make this case entirely about race. That’s because media outlets have become masters of keeping the viral anecdotes that advance their political worldviews at the center of the national conversation.
One person died in the Charlottesville, Virginia protests, yet we have heard about it for several years. Indeed, Joe Biden even claimed that what happened in Charlottesville was when he decided to run for president. In the uprising at the Capitol, the only person to die a violent death entirely as a result of the incident there was Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by a police officer. Yet the repetition of these incidents creates the idea that they were more significant in terms of deaths than they actually were.
The media is so adept at turning these stories into rallying cries that even intelligent people lose the ability to place the viral anecdotes in a larger perspective to analyze how commonplace or rare they actually are. The very reason these stories are going viral isn’t because they are common, it’s because they are so uncommon. The rarity makes them news.
A good analogy that doesn’t have any charged political connotation is the difference between a shark attack death and a car accident death. You hear about every shark attack death, but you hardly hear about any car accident deaths. Around 40,000 people die every year in car accidents in America, yet only around one or two die from shark attacks. But how many of you are more scared of sharks than you are driving to the beach? Almost everyone. The viral nature of the shark attack deaths and its massive media coverage overwhelms our ability to process fear and analyze it intelligently.
That’s why I’ve termed our media’s coverage of COVID fear porn. Fear is what has driven the COVID story frenzy.
Almost no one out there on social media today can adequately assess risk.
“Is Twitter or the NBA gonna do anything about LeBron’s dumbass tweet about the hero Columbus, Ohio police officer?”
Of course not.
As discussed above, LeBron has sports immunity from all consequences of his stupid comments.
I do, however, wish the police officer in this case would consider suing LeBron for his tweet. I’m not sure the police officer would win — arguably he’s a limited purpose public figure based on the shooting, making his standard for recovery difficult — but I would love to see the lawsuit filed and for the police officer to publicly announce he’d drop the lawsuit if LeBron was willing to say he supports basic human rights in China.
“Clay, you mind sharing some literature suggestions? Maybe what you’re reading these days? I read the Taylor Branch and Hampton Sides books at your recommendation and really enjoyed them. Looking for History/Political/nonfiction suggestions. Thanks.”
I’m going to start sharing the books I’m reading more regularly.
Right now, I’m about to finish Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I know it’s been out a long time, but it’s an absolutely fantastic book. And I recently finished two books by Johan Norberg, Open and Progress, which do a good job helping to combat the doom and gloom world narrative that is so popular today.
I’m also about to dive into Walking with Destiny, a one-volume Winston Churchill biography. (I read The Splendid and the Vile about Churchill during the Blitz and really enjoyed that as well. But now I want to know more about Churchill.)
So that’s what I’m reading right now.
As always, appreciate all of you and your support of OutKick.
Hope you have a great weekend.