Jason Whitlock on Fox News

In 2015, while Jason Whitlock was still at ESPN but after he was pushed out as editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, we opined about him being the equivalent of Silicon Valley‘s Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti, someone who’s constantly failing upward and winds up being paid a lot of money to sit around and not actually touch anything. Whitlock moved to Fox later that year, and the analogy’s perhaps only become more true since then; his much-hyped j.school site hasn’t published anything since April 25, 2016, he hasn’t written for Fox’s main website, and while he co-hosts the daily debate show Speak For Yourself, it gets next to no viewers and his takes have become so outrageous we disqualified them from This Week In Hot Takes back in February.

But more recently, Fox has seemingly found a use for Whitlock, tabbing him as an FS1 brand ambassador to conservative viewers. That’s seen through his on-air comments and tweets, but the larger change is how he’s been making frequent guest appearances at other Rupert Murdoch-owned companies. In particular, it’s how he’s been using many of those appearances to advance the preferred FS1 narrative about competitor ESPN failing thanks to their supposed shift into liberal politics.

The biggest example is Whitlock’s May 7 Wall Street Journal (owned by Dow Jones, a division of Murdoch’s News Corp, which also owns Fox) column titled “How a Gawker-Affiliated Website Made ESPN Politically Correct,” which saw him not only advance the “ESPN’s dying because they’ve become so liberal” narrative without any proof, but also link it to Deadspin (which he has a personal vendetta against thanks to their role in exposing his management failures at The Undefeated). Here’s a sampling:

What has truly impeded ESPN from overcoming its financial mistakes and inability to adapt to technological advances? The decadelong culture war ESPN lost to Deadspin, a snarky, politically progressive sports blog launched by Gawker’s Nick Denton in 2005.

…Deadspin significantly elevated the price of implementing change at ESPN. The often-caustic blog mastered search-engine optimization and Twitter ’s ability to gin up faux outrage. Its writers trolled ESPN talent and executives, getting plenty of attention along the way. The site particularly delighted in exposing alleged sexual malfeasance among ESPN employees.

…On the plus side, Deadspin’s exposure helped end ESPN’s sexually charged frat-house atmosphere. But it also extinguished the network’s risk-taking culture and infused it with strict obedience to progressive political correctness.

Yeah, none of that really adds up (unless you’re Whitlock and see shadowy “native advertising” and communist conspiracies everywhere), but it’s a useful take for Fox, one that not only criticizes ESPN but suggests to right-wing readers and viewers that ESPN is not a place for them to consume sports. (And by extension, competitor Fox is.) And it’s a theme Whitlock has hit on further across the Fox empire, particularly with appearances on Fox News and Fox Business. Here’s Whitlock on Fox Business on May 10:

Here he is on Clay Travis’ Fox Sports Radio show on May 10:

And here he is on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show May 25:

There are plenty of benefits to Fox regularly trotting out Whitlock to advance this storyline. For one thing, it promotes awareness of FS1 in general and Speak For Yourself in particular on the far-more-successful Fox News and Fox Business, and perhaps might convince some viewers of those channels to check out Fox’s cable sports offering. It’s a similar story with his WSJ columns; there’s a big potential audience there, and a lot of it doesn’t regularly watch FS1.

But even if SFY or FS1 overall didn’t gain a single viewer from these off-platform ambassadorial appearances, they might still be worth it for the larger company. The more you say something, the more people start to believe it. Continually shouting “ESPN is liberal!” may make some conservative viewers watch it less. (They probably won’t cancel their subscription, as the cable bundle means you generally would have to give up on Fox News as well as ESPN, something that belies the “ESPN is failing thanks to politics!” narrative. However, they might tune in to the network less, which would hurt ESPN’s ratings and thus their advertising revenues.)

Even if those viewers don’t shift over to FS1 (which many of them won’t; a lot of the ESPN critics out there have made it clear they don’t want FS1’s “Embrace Debate,” but are instead nostalgic for a supposed “Old ESPN” that’s not coming back). Advancing any narrative that hurts ESPN is still valuable for Fox. It narrows the ratings gap between the two networks (which is still quite giant; the more accurate competition for FS1 these days is ESPN2, which even some of their executives have admitted). And it means that the general narrative in sports media is about ESPN’s issues, not about FS1’s issues. The more everyone’s talking about negative things with ESPN, the less focus there is on where FS1 is at.

Whitlock is a useful tool for this kind of work as well. He’s a recognizable-enough name, especially thanks to his time with ESPN, and he’s one with a long background in the sports media world. That seemingly gives him more credibility to bash ESPN than, say, if Carlson just did it himself, even though there really isn’t a lot of evidence to support Whitlock’s arguments. But Whitlock has worked in this field, and has worked at ESPN, and he can be sold as an authority even though he isn’t. That makes him useful for advancing this “ESPN is liberal!” agenda.

There’s also perhaps more freedom for Whitlock to trash ESPN beyond Fox Sports’ platforms rather than on them. He doesn’t write for FoxSports.com, which AA has heard is a decision from management (Fox Sports did not return e-mails requesting comment), and his SFY appearances don’t tend to cover ESPN as much as what he’s saying in the WSJ and on Fox News and Fox Business. There may be a reason for that.

Having Fox Sports go directly at ESPN over politics not only makes FS1 more explicitly political (something they’re trying to avoid, especially while they’re advancing the “ESPN is failing thanks to politics!” storyline), but it increases the chances of return fire from ESPN; the companies have sniped back and forth in the media and at upfronts, but not so much on air, and that’s probably not a war FS1 really wants to start. Fox Sports commenting on ESPN’s business also is something that’s not particularly sports. But floating Whitlock out to these other Fox platforms provides FS1 a way to advance this narrative in more suitable forums, to many readers and viewers who eat it up, and without direct blowback for Fox Sports (he’s a FS1 personality, but he’s expressing his opinions beyond FS1).

It should be noted that Whitlock’s role as ambassador to conservative viewers goes well beyond trashing ESPN, and it’s something he does do on-platform as well. He’s floated plenty of ideas with some appeal to right-wing viewers, such as saying racial slurs on LeBron’s gate were not being a big deal because he’s rich, and promoted those off-platform as well (as with this WSJ column of “C’mon, LeBron, Your Emmett Till Analogy Is Simply Cavalier“), and while he’s taken some blowback (even from FS1 colleagues), he’s getting attention, which is FS1’s central mantra. It’s similar with his Twitter use; while his tweets are widely derided by much of the sports world, they’re embraced by some right-wing types (especially when it comes to him bashing “liberal ESPN”), and they go out to his 258,000 followers.

And that’s true even though his Twitter bio and pinned tweet suggest he thinks Twitter is “rigged” and has “ruined media discourse/analysis”:

Jason Whitlock Twitter

In the end, is Fox getting their millions of dollars worth out of Whitlock? Not necessarily. His show draws no ratings, his j.school blog was a failure, and he doesn’t write for their site. But at the same time, “ambassador to conservative viewers” is the most useful role they’ve found for him so far, and he’s filling that decently. If he can write a few super-conservative WSJ columns and make appearances on Fox News and Fox Business each month, frequently trashing ESPN in the process and advancing the “ESPN is liberal” narrative, there’s some value there for Fox. It’s a similar story with Silicon Valley’s Big Head, who’s continued failing upward, and even occasionally managed to prove quite useful. But let’s hope that this doesn’t all end with Whitlock as a Stanford guest lecturer. Unless they open a Department of Cyberhuman Studies.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • cdub24

    You mad bro? Geez. The Whitlock hate is real. Keep up the good work Whit!

  • dont_play_me

    Sorry … I’d rather hear about his off-base takes than his career tactics … What you wrote is obvious and you still got it wrong. Isn’t it about the content/voices Fox News and Business march out than whatever tactics Whitlock or Fox Sports are cooking up?

    • 2pcj

      “Sorry … I’d rather hear about his off-base takes than his career tactics.”

      You made a wrong turn.

  • Michael Martinez

    Kind of interesting that in that whole piece you left out one of Whitlock’s biggest appeals (and that of Barkley too sometimes): The black guy who makes racially problematic statements that white people can point to and say “hey, see, he agrees that if only black people stopped listening to hip hop and wearing their pants so low, the racial wealth gap and injustices in policing and prosecution would just disappear!”

    • Lee

      I too found it odd they didn’t explicitly say that this is the role Fox is always looking for someone to play, but I guess they figured it was all their in the subtext anyway so no need to be explicit about it

  • Longhorn Pundit

    I had no idea who he was until he started making blatantly ignorant statements with no shreds of evidence. So I sought out more information so I could make my own informed opinion. That led me to the Dead-spin in-depth article they did on him. I don’t care what his politics are. After reading that article as well as others. I have concluded that he is one arrogant and disgusting human being who should be God thankful that “liberal” network propped his plagiarizing ass up as long as they did.

    • Talcum X

      Why is his statements ignorant? Because you don’t agree with him? That deadspin piece was a hit piece. They’ve been out to get him for a long time, and was obviously biased. And coming from Gawker media, we know they have no credibility. And when has he plagiarized? There’s nothing true about that. And wanna talk about evidence? There’s none on regards to the spray paint incident. The only reason he’s “controversial” is because he makes conservative takes, and is shunned in the mainstream. And because of these takes, in which you don’t agree, you call him “arrogant” and a “disgusting human being”. Wow.

      • Longhorn Pundit

        ESPN acknowledged the work his Ball St. University ass stole from an Ivy League coworker. That was part of the reason ESPN demoted him instead of firing him as he should have been.

        • Talcum X

          Do you have any links to support this? I googled your claim and came up with nothing.

          • Longhorn Pundit

            I have a house full of friends watching the NBA finals. Do your own homework or choose not to accept it as truth. Your choice IDGAF!

          • Talcum X

            I did and i didnt find anything so your claim is false.

          • Longhorn Pundit

            This shit is fu***** old. WTF is wrong with you? Yes I could guide you to the article, but I have a life and it isn’t this serious.

            I’m having a hard time trying to understand why this many days later you still care so much. Are you fu**ing Whitlock?

          • Talcum X

            I just like calling out your lies lol. Its obvious it bothers your I called you on your b.s.

          • Longhorn Pundit

            No, it bothers me because you’re acting like a lifeless stalker!!!! Who cares about shit like this during the NBA other than people like you? I’m getting email alerts during the NBA finals about a comment I made on a forum six days ago. And it isn’t work. It isn’t family. It isn’t even spam mail. It’s f**king you!!!! Get a life troll.

          • Talcum X

            I just love the fact that it bothers so much and I get paragraphs every time! bwahahaha.

          • BRUHMAN

            Dear Loser: Since you’re too lazy to research i’ll help: http://deadspin.com/how-jason-whitlock-is-poisoning-espns-black-grantland-1698683962

          • Tommy Sotomayor’s Mind

            Dear dummy, my whole point own that site has no credibility lol

      • 2pcj

        It’s baffling how someone claiming Gawker Media has no credibility in part because of its biases can then elide the same analysis with respect to Whitlock.

      • jthob B

        Wait, so you believe Longhorn’s opinion’s are wrong because he defined Whitlock’s statements as “ignorant”, yet you’re allowed to give your opinion and claim that Deadspin did a “hit piece” and Gawker has no credibility?? So basically you’re making the same kind of judgements on opinions you disagree with that you lobbied against Longhorn. You sir are a hypocrite.

        • Talcum X

          No…these are facts. Gawker no longer exist because of their questionable tactics. And deadspin has a long history with talking crap about Whitlock, so you could do some research. My “hit piece” comment is based on that, written by a guy who wanted to write for Whitlocks espn site when he was the editor. Longhorn is wrong because he’s obviously ideological, and calls him ignorant because of his takes. They’re not ignorant, just different then his. But any black man who has “conservative views” is always vilified, that’s why he makes his views known. He knows people like you and the author will not give him any credit because because he gave some of his opinions you don’t like. Its very sophomoric.

          • 2pcj

            “Gawker no longer exist…”

            This is actually incorrect. The gawker.com domain has been mothballed, but Gawker Media continues to exist under the corporate umbrella of Univision.

        • BobLee Says

          I would “argue” that there is NO MAINSTREAM in America 2017 ergo no “mainstream media”. Trump won in November by the rules governing our elections but hardly “a mandate”. America is very sharply divided with EVERYONE claiming to be the last bastion of common sense on the planet.

          If there is any “mainstream” it may be “a guy named Mo” in Casper Wyoming.

      • jthob B

        Also, conservatives control all 3 branches of the government, a majority of state and local governments, AND Fox News loves to brag about how their ratings are number one. Guess what, that means conservatives ARE the mainstream!! That’s how that works!

        • Talcum X

          Lol Wtf?

  • Longhorn Pundit

    I had no idea who he was until he started making blatantly ignorant statements with no shreds of evidence. So I sought out more information so I could make my own informed opinion. That led me to the Dead-spin in-depth article they did on him. I don’t care what his politics are. After reading that article as well as others. I have concluded that he is one arrogant and disgusting human being who should be God thankful that “liberal” network propped his plagiarizing ass up as long as they did.

  • souvien

    The Poo Emoji makes more credible points than the Jabba The Whitlock…

  • newdog301

    Ever notice how you can tell the political affiliation of someone by the personalities that they criticize?

    Seriously. How many conservatives will ever praise the journalism skills of someone anti-Trump, and how many liberal bloggers will call an opinion “goofy” and “outrageous” by a talking head they disagree with.

    We’ve lost our ability to respect differing opinions as a society. Everyone we disagree with is either full of “hot takes” or fake news.

    • Talcum X

      Seriously. The fact that they disqualify his takes, is all you need to know. People can’t get over their biases, even when a good point is made and this is really alarming in our society. Whitlock has liberal talking point also, but that doesn’t matter, because only his conservative takes gets all the attention.

    • I will buck this trend. Technically I’m nonpartisan but active in the LDS Church, so I support the right because they endorse religious freedom. The clueless leftists think there is no God. However, Lisa Guerrero of Inside Edition is a spectacular journalist and is well worth following on Twitter. She is always breaking important news stories. I commend her for her integrity.

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  • philly97

    “ESPN is liberal” is NOT a narrative. It’s a fact.

    • that’s as plain as the nose on my face. There is empirical evidence galore that ESPN IS liberal.

      • 2pcj

        Fox Sports is no less progressive on gay rights than ESPN. Don’t kid yourself.

  • sportsfan365

    Please don’t become political yourself – as I am having a hard time finding sites that ignore politics, political agendas in sports, and the political leanings of others who talk about SPORTS.

  • Hkkg Bgik

    This site is obviously a bunch of liberal hacks. Please stop show partisan politics on this site. I’m really close to not looking at this website ever again.

    • Lee

      I never understand you people threatening to ‘never come back’ why not just stop reading the site, instead of making empty threats. If you hate it so much just go away, because I can 100% guarantee you one thing, they are not going to change for you, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you (just like me by the way) are really not special or important, no-one will ever notice if you stop reading this site

  • Matt

    I didn’t bother reading the piece by little Andy B. I did see the interview that Tucker Carlson had with Whitlock. Outstanding interview! Truth hurts the left.

    • Lee

      And there is the most clear example of weaponised ignorance you will ever see in the internet age.

      Openly admitting to not reading the article, but still criticizing it and then claiming to be a tribune of truth. The lack of self-awareness is just stunning

      • Matt

        I’ve read AB pieces and all are terrible. All are shots at FS1. Why put myself thru that. You call it ignorance, I call it keeping my blood pressure down. Nice try, taking your shot at me! LOL

        • Lee

          well if I wanted more proof my assessment of just what kind of person you are required any additional evidence I just got it.

          Its not a ‘shot at you’ to point out that one particular action of yours is emblematic of ignorance and the ignorance of the internet age. It literally is beyond your imagination that a person could write things of different quality and on different topics.

          But yeah, the fact u see everything as a personal attack tells me just who you are (now that was about you personally)

          • Matt

            Dude, I thinking your taking this site to heart. You might need to get a grip on life. Thinking you know who I am, is a joke. I feel you fail to talk about the real issue in what folks are talking about in this AB writing on this site.

          • Lee

            well you are the sad guy commenting on AB’s columns and he has literally no idea that you even exist, so in that case he wins.

          • Matt

            Sad guy, he wins. Wow, you sound like a winner! Move on, dude!

          • Lee

            you know what, I dont think i will move on. I am so sick and tired of weaponized ignorance on the internet and in comment threads that I will continue to call it out.

            If I could have one superpower it would be to be able to force self-awareness on people, so that ppl like yourself, who think you are making intelligent nuanced points are forced to realise just how lacking your simplistic world-view is, so you could understand, truly understand at your core, just how ignorant it is to criticise something you haven’t read. To understand, truly understand that you need to read the work of people who disagree with you, and shock horror! those with a different ideology if you want to be truly educated. That living in your own little safe-space where you only read ppl who you know before hand share your worldview so that your poor gentle little mind isn’t confronted with ideas that don’t neatly fit it into your pre-conceived notions of how people should think.

            its time that sheltered little snowflakes like yourself are forced to understand that there are people out there who disagree with you, and guess what, sometimes they are right. Its time for you little snowflakes to realise that living in a bubble is unhealthy, its time, frankly for you to grow up

          • Matt

            Listen, if you disagree with someones thought. Fine. Too each it’s own, By you still refusing to talk about the topic on hand. Superpower, internet calling people out. Boy, you sound sick in the head. Either talk about the topic on hand in what I brought up and the basing of FS1 by AB on this site or move on!!

          • Lee

            no, I don’t think I will, the much larger issue is people like yourself who don’t even read the thing they criticise, it has poisoned the internet. It has taken what could be wonderful tool, a worldwide commons, allowing ppl from all over the globe to discuss and debate issues, bring information from their own cultures to help inform the debates in other locales enriching the discussion in every area of the world on every topic imaginable. But instead what has happened is that it has weaponized ignorance, opened up the commons to ppl who don’t even read the thing they criticise, who opine on things they openly admit they have no knowledge of. It has bought down the level of discource in everything from sport to politics, has ruined what could have been a wonderful thing by empowering ignorance and downgrading knowledge, so no, I won’t stay on your narrow topic, particularly as you admit that you didn’t even read AB’s column on Whitlock, meaning it would be particularly pointless to discuss it with you, instead I will stay focused on the larger issue, that how ppl like you, and you specifically are actively harming the planet and ruining the internet

          • Matt

            Do you need a tissue?

          • Lee

            No, I just need the internet to be what it could be, and that goal would be immeasurably helped by people like you going offline and leaving places for debate to people who are actually informed

          • Matt

            Well, good luck with that. Don’t hurt yourself.
            I hope you enjoy US Open, baseball, soccer USA vs Mexico, UFC on FS1 this summer. The fall looks good with the B1G, Big 12 and Pac-12 on FS1!

          • Talcum X

            Coming from a guy who calls Whitlock pathetic because he and a different opinion.

  • Keurig Jones

    Whats worse.. espn is liberal or the writer of this badly spun liberal spinning in the night blog… inquiring minds want to know..

  • Lee

    Whitlock is just a parody of a parody of himself at this point, just pathetic, truly pathetic.

    I bet it really burns him that Greg Howard is at the New York Times whilst he is splashing around in the shallow end of the pool after Howard just basically destroyed his credibility as any type of manager anywhere for the rest of his life.

    Still pisses me off that this talentless hack, who would sell his own mother for a bit of attention gets paid so much to do nothing though.

  • inku palios

    Keep politics out of sports. People who work at Fox Sports are castaways from ESPN. People like Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, & Skip Bayless.

    • Matt

      Funny. ESPN did not want to lose Cowherd and Bayless.

      • BRUHMAN

        Wrong. They did. They were not going to keep them. It’s not like their ratings at a ESPN knock off have been dynamite. But hey keep drinking that Kool Aid.

        • Matt

          Well, take it up with John Ourand, who would know what he is taking about. You must need to do some looking into things before telling someone is wrong.

  • BobLee Says

    I visit this site about once/week. Not enough to have any real familiarity with its contributors. I like the premise of the site if not its POV. ….. I don’t pay attention to the names of the contributors but I’ll get a few paragraphs into n article and realize “It’s THAT GUY” and sure enough its this Andrew Bucholtz. I don’t mean that as a compliment. Once I see “It’s him” I discount any value to what I’m reading.

    Guys like “this guy” are a dime/dozen on The Internet.

  • Sergeant2

    If you’re a liberal and listen to Whitlock long enough he’ll have an opinion you won’t like, and if you’re a conservative and listen to Whitlock long enough he’ll have an opinion you won’t like. I don’t think Whitlock particularly panders to one side or the other, his opinions are all over the place when it comes to political leanings. He often hits the nail on the head, and sometimes he smashes his thumb. He doesn’t care if his opinion is politically correct or not, and that alone pisses a lot of people off. Personally. I like Jason Whitlock and I like Speak For Yourself.

    • Whitlock has the balls to speak the truth. He is a lone wolf among blue check mark media.

      • BRUHMAN

        What truth? That being a self hating, ass kissing step n fetchit house negro can line your bank account and make you acceptable to conservative assholes that want to use you? Again he was fired from a website for plagiarism and you think this fat turd speaks the truth? Good lord man. Get the net boys, we got a live one.

    • brothermuzone

      I agree that Whitlock will piss off both sides however I think he is just a trying to be a contrarian in most cases because he is an ego maniac . Most of his arguments don’t make much sense.

    • Talcum X

      Exactly

  • Joey Schmook

    Even my liberal friend agree that ESPN shifted to a more liberal approach about 6-7 years ago. This followed Sports Illustrated’s move in the same direction. While they wouldn’t admit it publicly, I’m sure that the ESPN brass would agree. That isn’t the end of the world for ESPN. If you’ve decided your audience will work best if given the sports from a liberal angle, then go for it. I turned them off for any commentary about 4 years ago, but I do watch sports and inevitably watch college basketball and baseball games on ESPN.

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  • Phillip Woeckener

    I’m glad I’m not alone in disagreeing with this article. Jason Whitlock is spot on in why people are tuning out ESPN (I’m one of them). I stopped watching ESPN and the NFL last year, thanks to Colin Kaepernick and his protesting the National Anthem. I’m a former Marine for crying out loud. You want to protest the flag and think it doesn’t bother me? You can call me a racist all you want, but for the NFL to not stop Kaepernick the moment he started this nonsense, and for ESPN to support it is all you need to know about why I’ve tuned out ESPN AND then NFL. Both entities have lost their compass, and they’ve lost me as a fan and/or viewer. None of my feelings have anything to do with race either. Any white player that protests the flag/national anthem would get the same treatment from me. But life is too short for this nonsense. I have better ways to spend my time then to intentionally allow myself to be insulted by ESPN and the NFL.

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