To the undoubted delight of Jamie Horowitz, Jason Whitlock of FS1 spent most of Thursday as a trending topic on Twitter because of something he said about LeBron James. Never mind the fact that most disagreed with Whitlock’s belief that, essentially, racism doesn’t count when it’s directed at the rich; Horowitz wants FS1 to be an all-day, every-day, hot-take factory that has people reacting and thus watching and listening for the next outlandish oven-mitted observation to react and watch and listen to.
One of those who reacted strongly and repeated to Whitlock’s argument was Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, who called out Whitlock in a stream of tweets aimed at making it clear that racism is racism regardless of how much money the person on the wrong end of the behavior makes or doesn’t make. Bennett’s overriding point seems to be that Whitlock believes that African-Americans with money (including Whitlock) are in some way better than African-Americans without it.
“Your black skin is different from the poor peoples black skin,” Bennett said to Whitlock after Whitlock tried to tell Bennett that he “clearly” missed the point. “But not mine, I still have that poor black skin bruh.”
It wasn’t only Bennett who called out Whitlock. As outlined by Jimmy Traina of SI.com, Mike Hill of FS1 also opted to express with surprising candor his disagreement with Whitlock’s words — and with Hill’s employers methods or embracing conflict in the hopes of filling coffers.
There’s another dynamic possibly at play here. Multiple FOX employees have reveled in the demise of ESPN, erroneously pinning it on left-leaning politics. This has set the stage for a not-so-subtle effort to use the ESPN example as a way to bully others in the sports media from daring to tiptoe to the left of center, possibly setting the stage for “fair and balanced” right-of-center views to take over the sports conversation.
This doesn’t mean FS1 will be going the way of FOX News. Horowitz knows that echo chambers don’t sell nearly as well as octagons, and that creating thick conflict out of thin air becomes the agenda and the objective, regardless of whether those throwing the punches truly believe what they are saying.