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
I've got to hand it to Skip Bayless for
articulating so well the racial divide in America via the world's
most popular cable television sports network. The 60-year-old ESPN
commentator is the Rush Limbaugh of sports journalism. He's built a
cottage industry playing the role of the angry white guy on the shows First Take and First and Ten, in which he debates other sports journalists and
ex-athletes, usually African-American ones, on racially charged
For instance, last January, Bayless caused a ruckus when he applauded the fact 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.
A native Oklahoman with a degree in English and history from Vanderbilt University, Bayless is a master of manipulating issues about race and ethnicity in professional athletics to make himself millions of dollars. A lot of folks don't know that Bayless 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 relentlessly, attacking African-American players as a young cub reporter. At 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 following line: "Before we tar and feather Tony Dorsett..." Obviously, Dorsett was more than upset, who noted that tarring and feathering were acts often associated with the lynching of black men in the Deep South.
But that didn't stop Bayless. In fact, he's become one of the highest paid sports columnists in the country, as well as a recurring face on ESPN, where he's honed 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 his team lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game last month. Black columnist Stephen A. Smith recently flipped him the middle finger on air. And Charles Barkley anointed Bayless the "biggest jackass in the history of journalism." But Bayless is just saying what his audience wants to hear. If he wasn'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 most people just like him: middle-aged, middle-class white dudes who despise successful millionaire African American athletes.
Follow Luke on Twitter at @unclelukereal1.