This Week In Hot Takes for July 23-26.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes, this time back in its usual Friday slot. Here’s a look at the hottest sports media takes from July 22-26. 

5. Skip Bayless theorizes LeBron “basically wants to take a year off,” signed off on “difficult-to-coach players” to “build in as many excuses as possible”: Many have wondered why the Los Angeles Lakers have brought in the likes of Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo around LeBron James, who’s had plenty of on-court run-ins with those players in the past. FS1 resident LeBron critic Skip Bayless has a theory, though; it’s all so they can lose without it being LeBron’s fault.

As with many Bayless hot takes, there’s one logical thread in here, and it’s that the LeBron move is not all about 2018-19 for the Lakers. Yes, they’ll look to make an impact this year, but the bigger part of some of their much-questioned free agency moves is that those players are all on one-year contracts, giving the team flexibility to go after top free agents to surround LeBron in the summer of 2019. But Bayless has taken that thread and sewn a whole sweater of nonsense, arguing that these players were acquired specifically because they’re “difficult to coach” and they’ll present LeBron with excuses, which he needs because he “basically wants to take a year off.” There’s no evidence for any of that, and it’s a pretty bizarre conclusion to jump to.

Rating: 🔥🔥

4. Buck Lanford tweets at the Falcons about his son changing his screensaver thanks to Julio Jones holding out, gets owned: Media figures quoting their children to try and make their own point is a weird trend lately, and Atlanta Fox 5 morning anchor Buck Lanford did that in a big way Tuesday, tweeting at Jones and the Falcons that his son was changing his screensaver thanks to star receiver Julio Jones holding out:

Tagging all of those players and the Falcons is pretty funny, as is the “Just thought you should know.” Many of us might be tempted to just reply with a “Bye, Felicia” or something similar, or even some sarcasm of the “Oh, thanks so much for letting us know this crucial information!” variety. And Lanford got laughed at by many:

But the Falcons’ account did even better. After Jones agreed to a modified deal Tuesday night that will see some of his 2019 salary converted to a 2018 bonus, the team brought the heat Wednesday morning:

Now that’s well-played. And hey, if the Falcons do well with Jones this year, we all will know who to thank.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

3. Ben Maller says Gary Sanchez’s DL trip comes from “phantom injury,” Yankees believe fans are “sheep”, while Mike Francesa insists “I don’t believe for one second he was hurt” and “I’m not buying that that was about an injury”: New York Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez’s lack of hustle on a passed ball and then a ground ball Monday night brought plenty of criticism, especially after the team tweeted that backup Austin Romine won their “Heart and Hustle” award (unfortunate timing, but that was MLB-set), even after Tuesday saw Sanchez sent to the disabled list with a re-aggravated groin injury that may have limited his ability to run.

Of course, there are still questions about if Sanchez could have tried harder on these particular plays (but judging players based off how hard they try in individual situations is a bad idea anyway) or if he should have told the team earlier if his injury was limiting him (but he’d just come off the DL and wanted to avoid returning there, an understandable (if problematic) instinct common to many athletes), but you’d think him actually being hurt would dial down the takes a bit. Nope. Especially when it comes to those who insisted Sanchez and the team were making the injury up to diffuse criticism. Like Fox Sports Radio’s Ben Maller, who managed to lob insults at the team and their fans as well:

Or WFAN’s Mike Francesa, who insisted on-air Tuesday “It’s setting up for one more public excuse…frankly, I don’t believe this one. I don’t believe for one second he was hurt.” Then, after the break, Francesa relayed the news that the Yankees were putting Sanchez on the DL, but continued to double down, saying “He probably had an injury for a while, but I’m telling you, I’m not buying that last night was about an injury.”

Since then, it’s come out that Sanchez is expected to be out until late August or early September, and the Yankees might even look to get more catching help to fill in for him. But sure, that’s just a phantom injury and a PR ploy. Thank you, Drs. Maller and Francesa.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 for both.

2. Dennis Dodd gets mad at Bryce Love for choosing class over media day, says “Stanford forfeited a bit of leverage to protest if Love doesn’t win the Heisman”: Media getting upset with players who choose not to talk to them is dumb, but common, but CBS college football columnist Dennis Dodd took it to a new level this week. Stanford running back Bryce Love didn’t attend the Pac-12 media day in Hollywood Wednesday in person because he had classes to go to, but he did Skype in. That wasn’t good enough for Dodd, though, who wrote a whole column titled “Why Stanford star Bryce Love’s absence from Pac-12 Media Day sets a dangerous precedent” (the dangerous precedent of “student-athletes” actually choosing academic work over a media event?) and went on CBS Sports HQ to complain further about Love not being there in person:

Here are some highlights from Dodd’s column, which also made the case that this absence could hurt Love’s Heisman chances. Because talking to the media in person is such an important Heisman consideration, and an athlete choosing to actually do schoolwork is such a negative.

Put it this way: Try to envision Tim Tebow in his heyday skipping SEC Media Days of because, well, school. Right or wrong, that wouldn’t have happened. The need to better himself, the conference and his school would have outstripped another summer school lecture.

…Let’s just say Stanford forfeited a bit of a leverage [sic] to protest if Love doesn’t win the Heisman. Five different times Cardinal players have finished second in Heisman voting since 2009.

Damn those Stanford athletes, actually trying to chase that silly thing known as “an education”! There’s been plenty written about the expectations on college football players in terms of practice, film and playbook study, weight room work and more, which can limit the classes they’re able to take, and it’s quite funny that a columnist is now going in on a player for trying to actually get the education that columnists always claim is so valuable and such a good reason to avoid playing players for their labor. And it’s particularly funny that this comes not from Love boycotting Dodd or boycotting media day; he still took the time out of his day to Skype in and answer dumb questions, and even that wasn’t good enough for Dodd. Great take there, Dennis.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Michael McCarthy and The Sporting News promote “Reputation Doctor” Mike Paul, claim “Jimmy Garoppolo’s dinner date puts brands of himself, 49ers, NFL at risk”: Certain corners of the sports world seem really, really into criticizing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for going on a dinner date with (gasp!) a woman who happens to work as an adult film actress. Last week, Fox 5 DC host Britt McHenry topped the takes for her argument that Garoppolo “should have more class and values than parading a porn star around LA,” and this time, it’s Michael McCarthy and The Sporting News going after him. And using a self-proclaimed “Reputation Doctor” to do so. Here are some highlights from McCarthy’s “Jimmy Garoppolo’s dinner date puts brands of himself, 49ers, NFL at risk” piece:

“Jimmy G-String!”

That was the mocking moniker used by FS1’s Jason Whitlock about Jimmy Garoppolo this week after the 49ers quarterback’s date with adult-film star Kiara Mia. As Whitlock’s on-air colleagues chortled, the co-host of “Speak for Yourself” warned Garoppolo, 26, made a mistake in stepping out with the 41-year-old star of the Kim Kardashian porn parody, “Keeping up with Kiara Mia.”

…”He’s got a freaky side. A real freaky side,” Whitlock said. “It’s going to be like: Is he distracted? Does he have some kind of addiction issue? “

…One sports marketing expert thinks Garoppolo, the NFL’s new golden boy, has put his own brand at risk, not to mention the brands of the 49ers and the league. Sports is still big business, with a B as in billions, warns Mike “The Reputation Doctor” Paul.

…If Garoppolo wants to follow in the multi-million-dollar footsteps of Madison Avenue endorsers like Manning, Brady and Cam Newton, then the more “family-friendly” his image, the better, according to the president of Reputation Doctor LLC. The same goes for the images of the team and the league.

“There’s benefits to being family-friendly. The more family-friendly you are, the more opportunity you have to have sponsors,” said Paul, who’s worked with many pro athletes. “If you’re blocking sponsors because you’re dating a porn star, that’s not good for you. Or the team. Or the league.”

Given the two-year controversy over NFL players kneeling in protest of social injustice during the national anthem, Paul doubts the league also wants to rub Garoppolo’s adult-film star girlfriend in the faces of family values-oriented fans who view pornography as “unsavory at best and illegal at worst.”

…”Garoppolo wanted to be different from Brady? Well, mission accomplished. You’re ‘Porn Boy’ now,” Paul said. “Even if he says the (Mia) relationship is over, you can’t shed that label just because you want to. The porn industry won’t forget.

“You’ve already put your reputation, your team’s reputation and the league’s reputation at risk.”

To start with, the premise here is that Garoppolo’s actions are questionable because Jason Whitlock questioned them. (He’s literally the only media figure with a negative opinion on Garoppolo quoted here.) And a whole article based on comments from the co-host of Speak For Yourself and its infinitesimally-small audience is a stretch in the first place, especially considering that Whitlock says patently ridiculous things on a regular basis, so much so that we elected him to our Hot Take Hall of Fame rather than keep writing  about what particular absurdities he’s spouting each week. What’s next, are we going to get an investigation of “Football’s consequences are yachts” or of communist conspiracies?

Beyond that, criticizing any athlete for who they choose to date is ridiculous. And this gets particularly funny when it brings in Paul and his self-appointed nickname. Putting “the league’s reputation at risk,” really? There are a whole lot of things to criticize the NFL for, and a ton even if limited to just “players’ behavior towards women”: a player going on a consensual date with a woman who happens to work in the adult film industry does not rate on the list. And “Won’t someone please think of the brands!” is excellent Helen Lovejoying.

Paul’s “You’re ‘Porn Boy’ now” is great, too; does he think just because he’s given himself a ridiculous nickname, he should apply that to others too? Oh, and can we just say that there’s no actual proof any sponsors want to drop Garoppolo or the 49ers over this, and that other players like Rob Gronkowski have been just fine after photos with people who once worked in adult films? And Paul cites the possibility of porn parodies involving someone Garoppolo-esque as a bad thing; well, the Gronk-themed erotica has really destroyed his brand, hasn’t it? Oh, and let’s also note that the piece says Paul has “worked with many pro athletes,” but doesn’t mention a single one. But thanks to Google, we’ve found some fun videos of Paul. Let’s start with this 2015 one of him being interviewed on New Jersey local news about Alex Rodriguez’s image problems (which have really held A-Rod back since his retirement), which mentions that Paul has helped repair the image of the likes of…Jason Giambi.

Paul does appear to be a regular guest on TV shows that don’t have anyone better to book. Such as on Dr. Oz this December, where he talked about giving men advice about sexual harassment allegations, and how the likes of accused harassers like Matt Lauer need to think of how their comments will impact their own children. “They’re victimized too.”

And, when he doesn’t appear on TV, Paul records his own videos and just puts them up on YouTube. Like this 2015 one (with 187 views as of Friday morning) on how NBC was right to fire Donald Trump from The Apprentice. “They obviously are a publicly-traded company, they can’t have a show or a brand associated with being a racist. They had to cut him loose.”

Look, crisis PR has been around for a long while, and Paul’s been working in the field for a while; fine. And maybe his “The Reputation Doctor®” branding works for him, along with this kind of marketing:

It certainly gets Paul media appearances, in places both big and small. But it’s hilarious that McCarthy and The Sporting News featured his hot takes on a “crisis” that doesn’t appear to be a crisis to anyone outside of Britt McHenry and Jason Whitlock, and that Paul went so over the top here. “Porn Boy” indeed. And if you want to call adult films “unsavory at best and illegal at worst” in 2018, go for it, but this isn’t even about adult films themselves; it’s about someone who just happens to work in that industry. To flip that situation, just because Paul goes around lobbing supposed insults like “Porn Boy” doesn’t mean that everyone in crisis PR does that. In any case, Paul dropped some five-alarm takes here, and McCarthy and The Sporting News get the same rating for insisting this is a “crisis” and publicizing Paul’s takes.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 for all.

Hot Take Standings: 

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 208
Skip Bayless – 180
Phil Mushnick – 142
Colin Cowherd – 66
Rob Parker – 41
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Doug Gottlieb – 33
Albert Breer – 23
Ray Lewis – 21
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Dan Shaughnessy – 17
Ben Maller – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Darren Rovell – 12
John Middlekauff – 11
Andy Benoit – 11
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
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
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
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
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Buck Lanford – 3
John Feinstein – 3
Stan Fischler – 3
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Michael Wilbon – 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
Jason Smith – 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
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.