Luther Campbell, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke crowns ESPN talking head Skip Bayless the king of race-baiting.
I have to hand it to Skip Bayless. The 60-year-old ESPN commentator is the Rush Limbaugh of sports journalism. He has built a cottage industry playing the role of the angry white guy on the show First Take, in which he debates other sports journalists and ex-athletes, usually African-Americans, on racially charged topics. For instance, in January 2011, Bayless caused a ruckus when he applauded the fact that L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin is half Anglo. "Yeah, I'll be the first to admit on national TV that I take a little pride because he came from a white mother," he said.
Bayless is a native Oklahoman with a degree in English and history from Vanderbilt University. A lot of folks don't know he started his career with the Miami Herald. He went on to write for the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Jose Mercury News.
Bayless honed his skills as a cub reporter relentlessly attacking African-American players. At age 25, he wrote a column blasting Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett as an "All-Pro con man" and opened with the line, "before we tar and feather Tony Dorsett..." Obviously, Dorsett was more than upset; he noted that tarring and feathering is often associated with the lynching of black men in the Deep South.
But that didn't stop Bayless. In fact, he has become one of the highest-paid sports columnists in the nation, as well as a recurring face on ESPN, where he dispenses his special brand of race baiting.
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Most African-American journalists and sports celebrities don't like him. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs called Bayless a douchebag to his face during an interview shortly after the team lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game in January. Black columnist Stephen A. Smith recently flipped him the middle finger on-air. And Charles Barkley annointed Bayless the "biggest jackass in the history of journalism." But Bayless is just saying what his audience wants to hear. If he weren't pulling in viewers, there is no way ESPN would keep him under contract.
As sad as his commentary may be, Bayless represents the worldview of people just like him: middle-aged, middle-class white dudes who despise successful millionaire African-American athletes.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.