Bomani Jones, who co-hosts ESPN’s “Highly Questionable,” has a knack for inciting debates on social media with his opinions, both spoken and tweeted. But his choice of a controversial T-shirt dominated the conversation Thursday.
On his day off, Jones swung by ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” sporting a dark blue shirt with the words “Caucasians” in a similar font and color scheme as that of the Cleveland Indians jerseys and merchandise. The team has come under fire for still using the Chief Wahoo logo — a depiction of a red-faced Native American — which the franchise says it’s phasing out as mascot. Jones’s shirt had a wide-smiling white male with a dollar sign where the feather would be on Chief Wahoo.
TMZ first reported that ESPN had “freaked out” over Jones’s shirt and asked him to cover it up. Sources at ESPN confirmed to The Post that Jones was indeed asked to cover up the shirt throughout the course of his appearance.
An ESPN spokesperson provided the following official statement to The Post Thursday afternoon:
“We felt Bomani made his point and had openly discussed why he was wearing the shirt, and we wanted to keep the focus to the topics of the day.”
When asked to provide a comment on the matter, Jones,who was sitting in for Mike Golic on Thursday, responded with a video of the two-minute interview with Qerim regarding the shirt, which can be viewed below.
Qerim took a moment to ask Jones about the shirt, which had taken off as a topic of conversation on social media. Jones initially joked about why he chose to wear the shirt, telling Qerim, “It was clean.”
But the ESPN on-air personality went on to say that he “really” likes the shirt because it’s the same as an Indians jersey, apart from the change in race of the displayed mascot. He went on to say that the Indians’ continued use of Chief Wahoo and other Native American-themed mascots is, for the most part, motivated by money.
“The reason they won’t get rid of Chief Wahoo, which is completely indefensible, is ’cause they can still sell stuff with it,” he said. “They can say they are going to de-emphasize it, but they’re not going to set money on fire.”
Sources at ESPN told The Post that while the network was supportive of Jones’s decision to wear the shirt and bring the conversation to the forefront, they confirmed that as the interview moved forward, Jones was indeed asked to cover up in order for the show to maintain its focus on the other topics slated to be discussed, as indicated in the above statement. They also noted that while ESPN did ask Jones to obscure the article of clothing, the company and the show-runners also initially allowed him to wear the shirt on the show and engaged him about it.
Some online commenters have supported Jones and derided ESPN for making him cover the shirt, while others have derided Jones. One of the most common anti-shirt responses has been along the lines of, “What would happen if Mike Greenberg wore an ‘African-Americans’ shirt on-air?”
Jones’s protest was the latest entry in a long debate. The mascot issue continues to bubble up in the national conversation because of the continued use of Native American imagery by teams such as Cleveland, the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Braves.
The Indians have continued to make use of the name but in 2014, opted to go with a block letter “C” in place of Chief Wahoo as their primary logo.