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Mental illness is one of the country’s leading concerns. It affects many people, many of whom are unaware or afraid to admit that they have mental health challenges. We should have more conversations about mental health. Together, we need to support those who suffer from mental illness and provide them with the help they need. However, at the same time, the Left should not be weaponizing it as they have with racism and COVID.
Though Democratic politicians most certainly use societal issues to forward their agendas, they are by no means alone. Athletes, musicians, actors, and TV hosts — those that we might call woke, elites, or grandstanding opportunists — are all culpable. They take human vulnerabilities, such as mental illness, and use them to their advantage.
Most recently, Simone Biles cited mental health as to why she bowed out of team and individual all-around competitions at the Olympics last week, but members of the media were pressured not to ask questions about this decision. It was over. The narrative had already been established. Biles may have quit, but doing so made her a hero. The New Yorker even included the headline “The Radical Courage of Simone Biles’s Exit from the Team USA Olympic Finals” to frame the Biles story.
We should take Biles’ mental health claims seriously, but we shouldn’t allow them to excuse her behavior. She quit on her team. She doesn’t get a pass for that just because she’s a black woman or a sports media darling. Everyone, including Olympic and professional athletes, has to deal with something. Sports can be just as challenging mentally as they are physically. Yet because the media is so afraid of running afoul of the established narrative, they celebrated Biles’ supposed bravery and — perhaps, unwittingly — signaled to young people that quitting is acceptable, that they can bow out of a spelling test just because they aren’t feeling well on a given day.
Employers, schools, and organizations should provide support for individuals who have a mental illness. However, that doesn’t mean excusing them from their obligations.
Fox News Will Cain succinctly summed up this point to Clay Travis and Buck Sexton:
“Mental health is a real thing. We have to focus on mental health. But it’s also become this total ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. …Eh, no one can question it. Listen to the language we’ve adopted.”
Cain is correct. Claims about mental illness now stop all conversation or criticism. It’s the latest go-to excuse for the same people who weaponized race following George Floyd’s death.
BLM has forced the country to view each other through racialized lenses to use accusations of racism to bring down their political enemies.
In addition, they and others, including ESPN, also use racism as a shield. In our hyper-racialized climate, treating people equally, regardless of race, is no longer good enough. Instead, BLM and other media bullies have manipulated Americans into “proving” they aren’t racist. In corporate America, executives now actively seek to prove they aren’t racist by treating black employees better than white employees.
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro lays off white males and aggressively promotes black talents under the age of 40 to hope that the mob won’t come for him or the network he runs. Democrats told then-candidate Joe Biden to pick a black woman as his running mate. Biden didn’t argue. He knew that he could hide his old, white skin behind a black female VP. So Biden selected Kamala Harris, even though she had previously called him racist.
Some people are even afraid to criticize black athletes, hosts, and celebrities now. When Doug Gottlieb offered mild criticism of Simone Biles, CNN reframed it as criticism of a black woman from a white man, as I discussed last week. What do their skin colors have to do with anything? CNN didn’t tell us.
In July, Stephen A. Smith uttered an offensive remark about Shohei Ohtani, an Asian MLB player. As criticism poured in, Smith tweeted and reminded his critics he is “BLACK.” Smith used his “Get Out of Jail Free” card. It worked.
Amazing that folks still don’t know me after all these years. If I am wrong about something, I will apologize. Especially if I unintentionally offend ANY GROUP of people — because it’s the right thing to do. Period! I’m BLACK. I would know! See y’all tomorrow on @FirstTake.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 12, 2021
What does being black have to do with anything? Stephen A. Smith didn’t need to tell us.
Look at the national ramifications of George Floyd’s death. In 2020, Democrats leveraged Floyd’s death to convince American voters that only they could put an end to crimes committed by white supremacists. Meanwhile, they let violence and crime explode in urban areas across the country.
Democrats and the media also rode COVID to the White House. First, together with Big Tech, they convinced Americans that Trump was responsible for the spread of COVID. Then, they used COVID to implement widespread mail-in voting, which ultimately did Trump in.
Meanwhile, Leftists established COVID policies to damage small businesses that didn’t comply and divert business to the tech companies, which reported record sales. The teacher unions used COVID as an excuse to stay home. COVID is destructive and deadly, but it yielded massive benefits for select Leftist groups.
Floyd’s death and COVID are, by definition, tragedies. So is mental illness. And the same group that silenced those who questioned claims about COVID now wants to silence those who challenge any claim about mental health.
If this trend continues, politicians will soon blame mental health for their shortcomings. The New York Times could blame its next hit piece retraction on a writer suffering some anxiety.
In sports, mental health is already a well-established excuse. WNBA player Liz Cambage got into a physical altercation in July and reportedly violated COVID protocols. Knowing how her decisions made her look, Cambage quickly changed the subject to her mental health concerns. ESPN dutifully ran Cambage’s comments about her mental health on its ticker, not the fight in which she was involved.
NFL cornerback Richard Sherman spoke about his mental health the moment the press questioned him about his alarming arrest video last month, signaling to critics that they should back off. And they did.
Sherman and Cambage may not be lying. They may indeed suffer from mental illness. But the timing of their announcements cannot be coincidental. Moreover, athletes who cite mental health to bring awareness to the stigma are not the same as those who cite it to minimize or deflect attention from negative publicity.
Using mental health as an excuse diminishes those who truly suffer from mental health issues, just as crying racism has damaged network TV’s relationship with its audiences. Mental health should be a public discussion that doesn’t only take place at opportune times.
I hope that Biles, Sherman, and Cambage seek the help they need. I hope they use their platforms to encourage mental health discussion. However, their mental health issues should not excuse their behavior. Furthermore, I resent the cowardice demonstrated by so many media members. They are so willing to compromise their journalistic standards to propagate a narrative from which they too hope to benefit.