The hottest takes from Aug. 31-Sept. 6.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re covering the hottest takes from Aug. 31-Sept. 6.

5. Jason Smith argues that Le’Veon Bell is “just about the money”: A player holding out in hope of a better contract often produces some spicy takes, both from fans of the team in question and from media members who should know better than just to advocate for teams’ interests. This week even saw those takes from an unusual source, a few Pittsburgh Steelers’ linemen who decided to bash teammate Le’Veon Bell for not reporting in hopes of gaining a long-term contract, and that provoked further hot takes from media. One came from Fox Sports Radio’s Jason Smith, who argued that Bell cares more about money than football:

The key part comes about 2:55 there, where Smith says “He’s hurting his own value by not coming in, because he’s showing ‘I am a mercenary, I’m so over the top for getting paid.’ He makes Odell Beckham Jr. look like a guy who will take any contract put in front of him. ‘I’m so over the top, I want to get paid, I’m not going to risk my body.’ And I understand it, but it’s so visible, and his overwhelming desire to just get paid; if I’m a GM in the offseason, I don’t want to sign him to a contract, I don’t know that he’s going to really be a star for me, I don’t know if he’s going to really try if I give him money. …When you want to get paid and you get paid, you’re not going to be the same guy, you’re not going to put the same effort into being a star player. And he really is showing ‘I’m just about the money.'”

This falls into a regular trope of bad sports media arguments, where media members (who are being paid well to make these bad arguments) suggest that players should be playing for the love of the game rather than for money. But professional sports produce a ton of revenue, and it seems like a fair bit of that should be going to the people actually providing the rare athletic skill needed, not just the people who happen to own teams. Whether the current percentages are fair or not is another discussion, and the Bell case is more about how much money should be given to one particular player than about the overall split, but the silliness here is Smith’s argument (previously made many times by many people) that athletes shouldn’t care about getting paid, or at least, shouldn’t show they care too much.

Being a professional athlete is a job, and one with minimal job security (thanks to non-guaranteed contracts, constant competition, and aging quickly disqualifying you). Are the media members who criticize athletes for using the minimal leverage they have to try and get better contracts and argue that they’re “just about the money” going to start doing their own jobs for free to prove their own love for the game? Or working for whatever pittance management decides to offer them with no negotiation? Probably not. And yes, holding out wouldn’t work as well in the media world, but it’s worth noting that media contracts don’t have the restrictions that athletes’ contracts do; media members aren’t drafted or held to a rookie scale, and can sign with whoever they want for how much they’re able to command. Holding out is some of the only leverage NFL players have, and it’s worked out well for many. Criticizing Bell for it as being “just about the money” is silly.

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Colin Cowherd argues that Bell should have chosen a different position: Continuing with the hot Bell takes, here’s FS1’s Colin Cowherd arguing that Bell is responsible for this situation himself for…choosing to play running back.

“Le’Veon Bell made a choice. At 14 years old, he chose to be a running back. 20 were drafted this year, another eight will make the NFL that were undrafted. Tom Brady has been the only steady in the Patriots’ dynasty, they’ve had nine different leading rushers. You have to be mature earlier than you usually want to; 14, 15 years old, you can make decisions that will end your life or extend it. [He then goes on a digression on how he picked TV over newspapers growing up because the TV station he visited had a better atmosphere and more attractive people.] Le’Veon Bell was 14 years old, he could have picked any position he wanted, he was that talented, and he chose the one that’s a pinata, in which there are dozens of running backs every year that come into the league, second round, thirdround, fourth round, fifth round, sixth round, seventh round, undrafted, and become great players. Alvin Kamara! These are the choices we make!”

This is very dumb. First, it’s factually incorrect that Bell “could have picked any position he wanted,” at least when it comes to playing that position at a college or NFL level. You don’t get to just say “Hey, I’m a quarterback” at 14 and suddenly turn into a five-star prospect; many of the top quarterbacks train for years and years before high school, and even many of those (and even many of the ones ranked as five-star prospects) don’t find success at the NCAA level, much less the NFL level. And while some of what position a player winds up in is their choice, it’s also about their body type, their team’s depth chart, their coach and more.

And this idea that Bell was “that talented” that he could have played any position is absurd, at least from the recruiting analysts’ perspective; Bell was a two-star recruit as a RB out of high school as per Rivals, receiving only four offers and choosing Michigan State. He had a huge battle to overcome the odds and be successful at the NFL level as a running back, a position he’s now become a great fit for. Suggesting that he could have just chosen another position and made the NFL that way is insane.

Like many of Cowherd’s rants, there is some logic buried in this hot take. Yes, running back is a tough position to play and to find long-term success at, especially with both college and professional teams becoming more focused on the pass and with running backs’ steeper aging curve relative to many other positions. Sure, if a player was equally talented as a running back or as a quarterback, they’d probably be better off choosing to be a quarterback. (Although not necessarily; it’s notable that it’s far easier to actually see the field as a running back or receiver than as a quarterback, where teams still tend to use just one starter.) But that’s not the actual situation here, and that situation doesn’t apply for many.

And yes, many running backs are very replaceable. Bell has suggested that he isn’t as replaceable as most (and fantasy football players over the last few years would agree), and that’s part of why he’s trying this holdout, but he may still prove replaceable in the end. But that’s all the more reason for him to try and maximize his perceived value while it’s high. And insisting that he’s hurt himself by choosing to play running back, and that he could have done better at another position, is nuts.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

3. Jim Kaat says “the only thing ‘team’ about many MLB teams now is the laundry”: Former MLB pitcher and long-time announcer (with the Twins and Yankees) Jim Kaat dropped an amazingly hot take on Twitter this week:

As many pointed out, both of those teams had significant numbers of players obtained through free agency and trades. Kaat later tried to say he meant only that they didn’t make in-season additions:

Why, exactly, is it a huge deal to pick up a player during the season instead of during the offseason? And the “earned our ring, didn’t buy it” take is nonsense. Those teams spent plenty on players, both from their own organizations and from other ones. This is a “Back in my day” take that isn’t even historically accurate.

Rating:  🔥🔥🔥

2. Phil Mushnick blames Nike for murders over their shoes: Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign this week created plenty of discussion, with some bashing the company and burning shoes, some praising the company, and some offering them limited praise while noting that there are still human rights concerns about conditions in overseas factories that produce goods for Nike. But New York Post curmudgeon Phil Mushnick managed to produce one of the hottest takes on it. Mushnick unsurprisingly hates the Kaepernick ad, and some of his criticisms on the human rights issues and Nike’s involvement in college sports scandals are reasonable and have been raised by others (whether those invalidate the entire campaign is a different topic of discussion), but where his “Colin Kaepernick ad campaign only highlights Nike’s hypocrisy” piece gets really hot-takey is when he goes after Nike because…some people have killed others to take their shoes.

Nike doesn’t operate on the blind or a wish. It knows who buys, how often and for how much — including paying with their lives for a $250 pair of Air Jordans.

Starting in the late 1980s, reports began to pile up about kids, overwhelmingly African-American, being mugged and murdered by other black kids for their Nike Air Jordans. But Nike, likely licking its chops, stayed silent. Nike believes in such selective silence. How about you, Colin?

If you knew that kids were killing each other for a product you made, what would you do? Clam up while stepping on the gas? The closest Nike came to acknowledging the issue was its pathetic and defensive ads in which Charles Barkley said, “I am not a role model.”

…Thirty years later, those assaults and murders for unreasonably priced and illogically prized Nikes continues as Nike sticks to its plan to create feeding frenzies among the young. Keep the supplies limited, the demand high, the prices higher, and let the blood money run deep.

So companies shouldn’t make something valuable because people might commit crimes to get it, and they’re responsible for those crimes. Going to go after all the automakers, watchmakers, TV manufacturers and others who create products that are sometimes stolen next, Phil? What about the banks: surely they must be responsible for people killed or hurt in robberies? How dare they store that money?! There are many things to criticize Nike for, but this is a hell of a stretch. Oh, and of course, Mushnick manages to keep up his personal crusade against swearing too:

Nike’s ad campaigns are often disgusting and dishonest while selling selfish immodest “Nike attitude.”

As Shalene Flanagan hit the tape to win last year’s NYC Marathon, she cried, “F**k, yeah!” Nike quickly made “F**k, yeah!” into an ad campaign. Classy.

Classier than anything you’ve ever written, Phil. F**k yeah indeed.

Rating:  🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. David Booth asks if Kaepernick ad message supports crashing planes into buildings, throws in anti-transgender comments for good measure: Former NHL player (well, he’s technically a free agent, but teams don’t appear to be barging down his door) David Booth managed to deliver the most nuclear take of the week on Twitter, asking if the Kaepernick ad campaign justified incidents like the September 11 terrorist attacks:

Yes, and “Just do it” is an invitation to commit murder. Congrats on worse logic than Mushnick, David. This did lead to some very funny tweets, though:

Booth also managed to get in a shot at transgender people, for some reason:

And capped it off with a Make America Great Again:

It’s a good thing Booth isn’t currently playing in the NHL, as takes at that level might melt the ice.

Hot Take Standings: 

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 208
Skip Bayless – 188
Phil Mushnick – 147
Colin Cowherd – 74
Rob Parker – 44
Doug Gottlieb – 41
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Ray Lewis – 25
Albert Breer – 23
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Dan Shaughnessy – 19
Ben Maller – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Andy Benoit – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Darren Rovell – 12
John Middlekauff – 11
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Jason Smith – 10
Joe Simpson – 10
Danny Kanell – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
The Sporting News – 9
Mike Francesa – 9
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Kirk Herbstreit – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Michael Wilbon – 6
Pat Leonard – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
David Booth – 5
Tom Nichols – 5
Keith Hernandez – 5
Bill O’Reilly – 5
Brandel Chamblee – 5
Michael McCarthy – 5
Mike “The Reputation Doctor®”  Paul – 5
Dennis Dodd – 5
Rich Lowry – 5
Chris Reed – 5
San Diego Union-Tribune – 5
David Hookstead – 5
Tomm Looney – 5
Alex Shaw – 5
Rick Reilly – 5
Randall Mell – 5
Ian O’Connor – 5
Michael Bamberger – 5
Bob Bubka – 5
Cathal Kelly – 5
Pete Prisco – 5
Damien Cox – 5
Bill Simons – 5
Christine Flowers – 5
Jason Lieser – 5
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Chuck Modiano – 5
Joel Klatt – 5
Steve Buffery – 5
Joe Morgan – 5
Michael Felger – 5
Howard Eskin – 5
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
John McGrath – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Evan Roberts – 4
Corbin Smith  – 4
DJ Siddiqi  – 4
The Express  – 4
Mark Kiszla – 4
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Bill Livingston – 4
Michael Irvin – 4
Shawn Windsor – 4
Brock Huard – 4
Byron Tau – 4
Maggie Gray – 4
Michael Powell – 4
Mark Spector – 4
Chad Forbes – 4
Gary Myers – 4
Mark Schlereth – 4
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Jim Kaat – 3
Jason Gay – 3
The Wall Street Journal – 3
Steven J. Brams – 3
Aaron Isaksen – 3
Will Muschamp – 3
Buck Lanford – 3
John Feinstein – 3
Stan Fischler – 3
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Reggie Miller – 3
Mark Madden – 3
Larry Brooks – 3
Dan Canova – 3
Steve Rosenbloom – 3
Stephen Jackson – 3
Mike Sando – 3
Walt Borla – 3
Chris Russo  – 3
Nick Cafardo – 3
Ice Cube – 3
Justin Peters – 3
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 3
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Ed Werder  – 2
Ben Mulroney – 2
Ron Cook – 2
Brian Kenny – 2
Barrett Sallee – 2
Craig Calcaterra – 2
Max Kellerman – 2
Gareth Wheeler – 2
John Cornyn – 2
Tony Dungy – 2
Bruce Jenkins – 2
Chris Wesseling – 2
Seth Greenberg – 2
Doug Smith – 2
Newsweek – 2
Teddy Cutler – 2
Will Cain – 2
Bill Cowher – 2
Paul Finebaum – 2
Charley Casserly – 2
Amin Elhassan – 2
Jim Henneman – 2
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.