Full disclosure: I’m Canadian. Okay, let’s get to it.
The ESPN columnist joined Keith Olbermann on the latter’s eponymous show to talk about what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do with Canadian Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft who has reportedly been discussed in trade talks for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love.
Whitlock took the opportunity to make a broad, sweeping statement about Canadian athletes. Fast-forward to 3:20:
Let’s look at those words again:
Andrew Wiggins is from Canada, and Canadian athletes (I think, among NBA players and NBA people) perhaps don’t want it as much as even some of the Europeans and certainly the American players.
How quickly he forgot about two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star Steve Nash. Since he included all “Canadian athletes”, how about the multitude of Canadian Olympic gold medalists, the thousands of Stanley Cup champions, the American and National League MVPs, the Baseball Hall of Famer, the Masters champion, and the UFC welterweight champion?
Clearly, they didn’t “want it as much.”
Whitlock tosses in “NBA players and NBA people” to imply that it’s not his opinion, but it doesn’t matter who he’s attributing the opinions to. They’re asinine, and whether he’s saying them for the first time or passing them along from other sources, he’s perpetuating stereotypes by not dispelling them as unfounded myths.
Later in the show, Olbermann gave Whitlock a chance to apologize, bringing a discussion about Johnny Manziel back to Whitlock’s earlier remarks. But there was no apology (jump to 1:28):
In fact, that explanation only made it worse. Here it is again:
I hope I’m not in trouble for [the earlier comments], but I’m telling you. This is what a lot of NBA people believe, that American-born and even some of the European players that come [over to play in the NBA]. They have more intensity, more of a hunger for the game. They’re not as laid back. Look, Canada’s a laid-back place, which is probably a positive thing. There’s positive-ness to not taking basketball and being so intense or being so bottom-line driven as we are here in America where it’s ‘work, work, work, work, work and just go-get-go-get and that’s all we respect. But I’m just telling you, this is the conversation with basketball people: Does he have that ‘dog’ in him? Does he want to be the greatest all the time? Does he know how to give that consistent effort all the time? And they think that’s a question that a lot of players from north of the border have to answer.
Once again, he insists this is an opinion held by multiple people making decisions about NBA rosters. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, it’s nothing but lazy, insulting stereotyping that has little to no basis in reality.
Remember in part one when Olbermann called Whitlock out and said, “What we saw [in Wiggins at Kansas] was a kid!”? In response, Whitlock said:
I had an eating problem when I was 15, 16 years old. I’m now 47. So sometimes what we see as a kid is who we are as adults.
Then in part two, Whitlock says, “I think they [Manziel rep Maverick Carter and client LeBron James] think” that 21-year-old Manziel will grow up because, essentially, Manziel and young LeBron liked to have fun, and LeBron matured later in his career so Johnny will too.
So Wiggins will be “laid back” and lack intensity for his whole career but Manziel will grow out of his off-field issues because LeBron did? Why? Because Wiggins won’t be able to escape his supposed Canadian identity?
Whitlock will use the whole “other-people-believe-this” defense forever, but as you can see, his prejudice is clear. “I think they think” means you think, and if you don’t disagree, you’re condoning it.
He’s not even the first ESPN personality this month to make a broad generalization about Canada on television. Whitlock’s been reined in by the network before (even before his new personality-branded site has come close to launching), and he needs to understand these comments insult everyone’s intelligence.
Broad, sweeping, inaccurate generalizations about the ineffectiveness of Canadian athletes aren’t likely to move the needle as far as social media outrage, but this is exactly the kind of insulting, baseless commentary ESPN signed up for when they re-hired Jason Whitlock. At least this time he didn’t make any jokes about Canadian anatomy.