God and country. Pairing the two feels a bit trite, a tad overly dramatic.
But they explain why I’m here, at the new Outkick. They explain my desire to be part of something that I help build and own.
When I was a young boy growing up in Indianapolis, my grandmother, Lovie Kennedy, planted the seed of Christianity inside my soul. That seed has taken root and blossomed in ways I could’ve never imagined sitting beside her on a pew at tiny 25th Street Baptist Church.
I’m an imperfect sinner who moves in faith, rejects fear and prefers to be defined as a follower of Jesus Christ above all else. My race, gender, sexuality and political point of view are all irrelevant in comparison to my personal relationship with God.
They also take a backseat to my love of country.
I’m a Christian American. God and country.
At age 53, those two words define me. They explain my decision to partner with Clay Travis and Sam Savage in an effort to turn Outkick.com into a powerful media platform, a national distiller of truth, humor and fun.
I do not know Clay and Sam’s religious beliefs. I’ve never asked. I likely never will. Outkick is not and will never be a religious platform. It will be the premier destination for the analysis of sports and society at large.
This column, this explanation, is solely about what drove me to leave a rising, successful television show at FOX Sports 1 to become a partner at Outkick.
It’s hard to be me at a modern mainstream media company. The things that define me are under attack. Social media has prioritized race, gender, sexuality and political ideology well ahead of God and country. The mainstream media’s addiction to social-media traction does not comfortably accommodate someone with my beliefs speaking my truth.
Social media defines my values as outdated, no longer healthy or useful. Major corporations, the lifeblood of the mainstream media, operate in fear of algorithms that act as social-media lynch mobs. The punishment for failing to stick to the secular values promoted through social media is career execution by lethal algorithm.
Everyone must pretend Saints quarterback Drew Brees said something outrageous and indefensible when he stated he would never agree with anyone who disrespected the flag.
I can’t do it. I can’t participate in the character assassination of anyone based on such an innocuous comment.
Everyone must pretend the police are executing a mass murder plot on unarmed black men even though there were only nine such incidents in 2019.
I can’t do it. I can’t demonize a group of people based on the isolated actions of a few. That’s bigotry. And I say that having lost a close relative to police violence in May of 2012. I say that realizing George Floyd’s death was a heinous murder by a cop clearly drunk on power.
Let me be clear. No one at FOX Sports, ESPN, the Kansas City Star or anywhere else I’ve worked has ever asked me to say or write something I didn’t believe.
But the reality is the truths I explore/discuss/debate are problematic for organizations justifiably controlled by fear of social-media whims. It’s like running a race against a head wind while your competitors have a wind at their backs.
Fear of social media is a head wind slowing the progress of truth. In order to win the race, I have to work in an environment free of fear.
I am my father’s son. Jimmy Whitlock, my dad, quit working the assembly line at Chrysler Motor Company and started his own business in the early 1970s because his supervisor questioned him about reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X on their lunch break.
My dad opened a barbershop, the Knothole, and then later partnered with a friend on a neighborhood tavern, The Triangle Club. He spent the last 40 years of his life working for himself because he refused to work anywhere he couldn’t be himself.
My dad’s views on America were mixed. His stint in the Army changed his life for the better. He experienced acts of racial bigotry as a child and a young adult that left deep scars.
But he always believed America provided enough freedom and opportunity for any man with balls and a work ethic to find success and build a life worth living.
I’m here because I have balls and a work ethic. I’m here because I have truths I want to share with sports fans, with athletes, with Americans, with the powerful. Truths I believe that will bring us together, stop us from continuing to spiral toward dissolution of the greatest human experiment in the history of mankind.
The United States of America.
Irrational fear is threatening our existence. It is my belief that partnering with Clay and making Outkick the most fearless media force in America will help heal the wounds dividing us.