Friday, July 12, 2013

The Dire: Jason Whitlock

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I feel the need to tell you the following: When I was a member of my high school newspaper, the two most influential sports writers for me, were Mike Lupica and Jason Whitlock. Both were smart, witty and highly entertaining to read. Between them, they represented so much of what I identified with; the little Jewish guy from New York and the angry, hip-hop loving outsider in Kansas City. Both have gone to disappoint me, in their opinions and attitudes towards the athletes they've spent careers covering.

I’ve also been a big fan of Jay-Z since his first album came out in 1996. Now you’re probably asking, where could this all be leading to? Well, Whitlock has really pissed me off. Two days ago, Whitlock published a column taking Jay-Z to task for entering the world of sports, as he has recently been certified as a sports agent and started signing some very prominent stars.

I have no idea if Jay will be a decent agent, a great agent or a horrible agent, all of that remains to be seen. What’s obvious right now, and painfully so, is how wrong Whitlock is. Whitlock isn't saying that Jay will fail, but that he has no business attempting a new business venture. And, ironically, Whitlock’s reasoning has a race as the foundation.

I’m not going to go through Whitlock’s column, point by point and argue each of his ridiculous claims. No, that’s too easy. When I read it, using that approach was my inclination. Then it dawned on me, and I saw what Whitlock was really doing. Once a year or so, Whitlock’s name would find its way into the larger sports conversation. There was an idiotic joke about Jeremy Lin followed up, 10 months later, by a thoughtful column about guns after Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide.

Mostly, however, Whitlock was an after-thought. Going after Jay-Z was a calculated move. Jay-Z is a lightning rod for publicity. And right now, he’s selling a new album and promoting a summer tour with the biggest pop-star in the world, Justin Timberlake.  So Whitlock is calling him out, and comparing him to the house slave from “Django Unchained” is all about getting himself some publicity.

Whitlock calls Jay a “n*gga rapper” for the frequent use of the word in Jay’s songs. His opinion might be eye opening, if Whitlock wasn't always tweeting about his love of the show “The Wire.” “The Wire” is basically, a television version of many Jay-Z songs.  Whitlock’s Twitter-bio says, “The Wire explains my life perspective.” But this week, Jay-Z is a sellout for “willing to entertain the masses with n*gga tales.”

I tried, but I can’t just leave so many of Whitlock’s points un-checked. First of all, Jay-Z entrance in to the sports world isn’t new. He purchased a stake of the Nets (previously of New Jersey) and helped move them to Brooklyn.  His reported investment, netted him a 135% gain. Whitlock points out that, Jay didn't ask LeBron James to rap on his album. Right, well, this venture doesn't end with Jay playing shortstop for the Yankees. It’s the business side of sports. And Jay isn't doing this by himself. He didn't open up some office on 5th Ave, hire a secretary and start calling on his pals. He has a partner with more than a little experience in this world, Creative Artists Agency. They represent the likes of Timberlake, Hanks, Aniston, Springsteen, Kanye, Beckham, Manning, Jeter and Cruise.

This also isn’t Jay’s first foray into the business world.  There was his clothing line, Roc-A-Wear, which he sold for $204 million. He opened a few successful night clubs, 40/40. He has a partnership with Budweiser Select and was credited as the executive producer of NBA2K13.  As President of Def Jam Recordings, he helped launch the careers of Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  He has a partnership with a former music executive, Steve Stoute, in Translation Advertising, which had resulted in award winning advertising.

I’m not sure how Whitlock is able to talk out of both sides of his mouth, or type out both sides of his keyboard, and continue to be so well compensated.  In early July, Whitlock blamed our countries love of violence for Aaron Hernandez. He stated that modern athletes mimic rappers, carry guns and do drugs.  But just yesterday he tweeted about how great “The Wire” was. Calling some of the characters CEOs, debating who the smartest drug dealer was and justifying (fictional) murders.

Long ago, Jason Whitlock stopped being a journalist and started thinking of himself as a brand, a brand only concerned with selling itself. Much like the Kardashian’s he (rightfully) pokes fun at.  20 years ago, he defended hip-hop, now he rails against it. A week ago he called out a country for its love affair with gangsters, and yesterday he celebrated them.

Jason, go back to blocking for Jeff George. Because you know what I see?

I see a man without a country. Not hard enough for this right here and maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there.

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