There might not be a better encapsulation of our current internet culture than the following TikTok, which seeks to answer the age-old question: Is Baby Gronk the new drip king or is Livvy just using him for clout?
Losing my mind pic.twitter.com/QgdvHcS5gS
— SRK Nephew (@KELVlN_FILTER) June 6, 2023
After the video went viral last week, it prompted countless follow-up questions, none more pressing than the obvious, “Who is Baby Gronk?” Ari Wasserman, who covers college football for The Athletic, wondered that himself, later conducting an enlightening interview with Baby Gronk’s father, Jake San Miguel.
As soon as it was published, the profile was met with criticism, with many feeling it was irresponsible of Wasserman to platform a manipulative parent with an obvious agenda.
This sucks. People are paying you guys for sports journalism. Not whatever this is.
— A. Philip Randolph Childress (@nickadamsweb) June 12, 2023
You don’t have to do this.
— Peter Nygaard (@RetepAdam) June 8, 2023
The child-star industrial complex is one of the most toxic we have, with “stage dads” like San Miguel and LaVar Ball willingly exploiting their kids for content and money.
San Miguel’s motives have never been more apparent than on his recent podcast appearance, in which he was seen feeding Baby Gronk answers in an effort to build the 10-year-old’s brand.
Here we have Baby Gronk’s dad feeding him answers on the Bring the Juice pod. Hey kid, blink twice if you’re tired of being dad’s clout bait pic.twitter.com/UltW1vCYTB
— Francis (@franciscellis) June 13, 2023
Though San Miguel insists he’s merely trying to create a financial safety net in the likely event Baby Gronk falls short of his NFL aspirations, others see it as emotional abuse, prioritizing celebrity and social status over healthy relationships with clear boundaries.
Wasserman addressed the controversy in his weekly mailbag, expressing surprise that his article received such negative responses.
“I knew there would be pushback, but I didn’t think it would be this overwhelming,” Wasserman admitted. “I did read a lot of the feedback. I also had frank conversations with other journalists whom I trust. Some said they would have written the story, others said they wouldn’t have. Journalism is complex, and engaging in discussions about situations like this will be fruitful for my continued growth in this profession.”
While Wasserman doesn’t regret writing the article, he understands where readers are coming from, viewing San Miguel as a disgusting parasite riding his son’s coattails to internet fame.
“They were his words presented to the audience without judgment. Is this man a good person? Is he raising his kid right? You tell me. Whom we choose to write about isn’t reserved for only people the audience finds noble,” said Wasserman, arguing that journalism isn’t served by ignoring complex subjects. “You may not like my choice. If you don’t, that’s OK. This is a case study on how to handle similar scenarios in the future. I went with my instinct and trusted my editors, who have more than 50 years of journalism experience combined.”
The difficulty, as alluded to by Wasserman, is balancing his journalistic responsibilities as an unbiased reporter, allowing San Miguel—a relevant public figure with a significant social media presence—the chance to voice his opinion without coming off as a mouthpiece. Is there a danger in giving undue attention to a father who may not have his son’s best interests at heart? Perhaps, but, as Wasserman would argue, that’s not for us to judge.