In a world full of hot takes, Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd are paid handsomely by Fox Sports 1 to provide a steady stream of molten lava. But Whitlock may have outdone himself Thursday when he said that racism was not an “issue” for a black person as wealthy as LeBron James.
That opinion, expressed on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” earned Whitlock a stern rebuke from, among many others, Martellus Bennett. The outspoken Packers tight end, who helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl in February, called the FS1 personality’s comments “ridiculous” and “ludicrous” in a series of tweets that caught the attention of Whitlock himself.
Whitlock and Cowherd had been discussing James’s response to an incident of racist vandalism Wednesday, in which the n-word was discovered spray-painted on the gate of his offseason home in Los Angeles. In a news conference in Oakland, ahead of an NBA Finals showdown between his Cavaliers and the Warriors, James offered extensive remarks, telling reporters, “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough.”
“It just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America,” James added. “And, you know, hate in America, especially for African Americans, is living every day. And even though that it’s concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and will say things about you, and when they see you, they smile in your face, it’s alive every single day.”
James also brought up the mother of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was brutally attacked and killed in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman during a visit to Mississippi. The mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on having an open casket at the funeral, so attendees could see for themselves what race-based hatred had done to her son.
“The people that murdered Emmett Till got off, an all-white jury let them off; there was no real investigation, the whole town was against him. LeBron’s $20 million Brentwood home gets vandalized and I see two or three police cars trying to get to the bottom of it,” Whitlock said Thursday. “LeBron’s staff, I’m sure, cleaned up the spray paint within hours. This ain’t Emmett Till.”
Whitlock described the racist vandalism as little more than “a disrespectful inconvenience” for James, who he said had “fallen into the far-left trap of there’s value in embracing your victimhood.”
“Racism is an issue in America but is primarily an issue for the poor. It’s not LeBron James’ issue,” Whitlock said. “He has removed himself from the damages and the ravages of real racism.”
“You don’t become out of racism’s reach because you’ve cashed a few checks,” Bennett said on Twitter. “Racism don’t give a s— you still a n—- in that Benz.”
“You still a n—- in that mansion in racism’s eyes,” Bennett tweeted. “For [a] dude to sit on national television and basically say that Oprah, himself and LeBron are a different black from everyone else is ludicrous.”
“Racism is a living organism. A parasite. That continues to find new hosts everyday,” Bennett said Thursday, adding, “You ain’t special because you got money. Let’s rebuild our communities not talk down on ’em.”
The backlash on Whitlock came from others, as well, including Mike Hill, who works with Whitlock at Fox Sports 1. In a series of tweets Hill began by calling Whitlock’s comments “preposterous and just plain dumb,” before critiquing Whitlock personally.
“When you’re saying stuff jst [sic] for the shock value or think it’s going to bring attention 2u, you’re jst a media whore,” Hill tweeted. “Selling it 4 attention.”
Hill finished his critique by underlining that racism of any sort “has not tax bracket or cares about your popularity.” He added in the same tweet, “In fact, in some cases, it incites it.”
Whitlock did not respond online to Hill, who said he makes it a point to stay off what he referred to as “ ‘those’ shows”; Whitlock did, however, respond to Bennett, who rarely shies away from an argument on social issues. This created another back-and-forth.
Whitlock tweeted at Bennett, “You clearly missed my point, Tellus.” The tight end replied, “Naw I heard you loud [and] clear. You had a chance to be the voice of the voiceless and that’s the s— you chose to say?”
“You had a chance to spread encouragement and TRUTH on hate and injustices in America and that’s the s— you chose to say?” Bennett continued. “I heard you bro. Your black skin is different from the poor people’s black skin. But not mine, I still have that poor black skin bruh.”
Whitlock replied to that last comment by tweeting, “You’ve lost touch with the poor if you can’t understand their struggle is FAR different from someone worth $500 million.”
Sensing a standstill, eventually Bennett decided to end the back-and-forth.
Bennett might chime in again should someone say something he wholly disagrees with. Bennett, who is very active on social media, has become quite known for standing up for himself. Even before the Super Bowl, he indicated at the massive media event for the game that, should New England win, he would boycott the visit to President Trump’s White House, and he reiterated that stance immediately after the victory.
Bennett then reacted to the predictable spate of “stick to sports” comments he received online by firing off a number of tweets that touted the diversity of his interests. “When you look at me what do you see?” he wrote at the time. “I know you wanna ask me what sport I play. I mean what else could I possibly be besides an athlete. When you look at me, see the father, the awesome dad, the author, film director, business owner, champion, friend, Hufflepuff beast.”
Whitlock, meanwhile, continues to spar with other Twitter users who were taking issue with his comments. To one who said to him, “I guess you feel [Muhammad] Ali was being inconvenienced as well,” Whitlock replied, “Ali was denied the right to box/earn a living for 3 years. LeBron’s staff removed some offensive spray paint before he saw it.”
To another who challenged Whitlock to tell him how race wasn’t involved when Oprah Winfrey was reportedly racially profiled while shopping in a luxury goods store, the Fox Sports 1 host replied sarcastically, “This is obviously an outrageous injustice that must be stopped.”
As of Friday afternoon, Whitlock was still at it.