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Whitlock: Sports TV’s embrace of toxic hip-hop culture fuels Shannon Sharpe-Skip Bayless feud

Op-ed

The embarrassing public beef between Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe reflects the consequence of sports television’s embrace of “Tha Culture.”

Tha Culture is short for hip-hop culture: the art, style of dress, and mindset associated with popular commercial rap music. Tha Culture foments violence, chaos, petty beefs, the prioritization of emotion over logic, and the justification of an immoral pursuit of money, power, and fame.

Six years ago, under the direction of then-Fox Sports 1 executive Jamie Horowitz, Skip and Shannon dove headfirst into Tha Culture with their debate TV show “Undisputed.”

Horowitz paid rapper Lil Wayne to befriend Bayless and create a theme song for the show. Horowitz, a former ESPN producer, envisioned “Undisputed” as the synagogue or holy land for the marriage of sports and hip-hop. Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Young Jeezy, and countless other rap icons joined Skip and Shannon to debate sports.

“Undisputed” represents the culmination of a 30-year process to replace rock with rap as the official music genre of sports. In the new millennium, inside an arena or stadium, DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” is what Queen’s “We Will Rock You” was in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The change in musical genre provoked a cultural shift that has impacted everything around sports, including the broadcasters. When it comes to black broadcasters, sports TV executives like Horowitz value the same characteristics as Lyor Cohen, a legendary hip-hop music mogul: street credibility, a lack of impulse control, buffoonery, and promotion of racial idolatry.

ESPN hired Stuart Scott in 1993 and tapped in to his ability to blend sports broadcasting with hip-hop references. Scott became the gold standard for black sports broadcasters. A decade later, ESPN created an opinion-based show, “Quite Frankly,” around Stephen A. Smith, which began the process of making Smith the gold standard for black sports opinionists.

Scott was a talented broadcaster. Smith was an accomplished news breaker covering the NBA. They earned their opportunities. But they were chosen for a reason. They fit the hip-hop profile the Worldwide Leader in Sports wanted to project. Let’s call them the LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee of sports broadcasting. They had no idea that they were blazing a trail for Tupac Shakur and Eazy-E.

That’s where we are now. Sports TV executives prefer black gangsta broadcasters and opinionists over any black broadcaster with real substance. Criminal history, gang affiliation, and off-field indiscretions enhance qualifications rather than diminish them.

Horowitz hired Sharpe after CBS dumped him because of domestic violence allegations and a checkered history with women. Fox Sports hired Aqib Talib as an NFL broadcaster despite his shady past on and off the field. Amazon then hired Talib to be part of its Thursday Night Football broadcast team. When Talib was accused of being a provocateur when his brother allegedly murdered a Pee Wee football coach, Talib stepped away from the TNF gig. Amazon then turned to Richard Sherman, who was last seen trying to break down a door to confront his wife and her family. Showtime Sports backed and built the “All the Smoke” podcast featuring Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. During their playing careers, Barnes and Jackson had multiple on-court and off-court indiscretions.

Let me add some transparency. I worked at Fox Sports 1 alongside Sharpe, Michael Vick, Matt Barnes, and Stephen Jackson. I covered Aqib Talib’s college career. I was hired by Jamie Horowitz, just as Sharpe was.

I absolutely adore Mike Vick and how he has handled his life after his incarceration for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. I personally like Stephen Jackson. He’s well-intentioned although flawed and misguided. I promote the concept of giving any man a second or third chance at redemption and an opportunity.

But sports television has been overrun with a dangerous and poisonous mentality. It mirrors the rap music world.

Matt Barnes recorded an Instagram video yesterday that he would call a well-intentioned warning to Skip Bayless. Barnes predicted that “someone is going to end up hurting Skip.” It was not a well-intentioned warning. It was a video posted to justify violence against Bayless.

Skip Bayless is 71 years old. Barnes bragged that he’s stopped two people in the past year from beating up Skip. Barnes said an NBA coach and a player both wanted to harm Bayless. Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has publicly feuded with Bayless over the nickname “Westbrick.”

Bayless is in the social media crosshairs because of his Monday night tweet about Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo safety who suffered cardiac arrest during the game. Sharpe refused to appear on Tuesday’s episode of “Undisputed” because of Bayless’ tweet. On Wednesday, when Sharpe returned to the show, Skip and Shannon bickered and beefed to start the show. It was embarrassing and unnecessary. Bayless’ tweet was harmless.

“No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.”

Sharpe, Barnes, Dez Bryant, Kendrick Perkins, and many other athletes pretended as if Bayless put a knee on the neck of Hamlin. Somehow Bayless’ tweet “disrespected” Hamlin and all professional athletes.

There’s no greater crime in hip-hop culture than disrespect. People get shot and killed over disrespect. Disrespect justifies beating up a 71-year-old television troll.

Disney and Fox have allowed sports TV to turn into Death Row Records. Shannon Sharpe is Suge Knight pursuing money, power, and fame by fanning the flames of racial animus around his co-host.

We keep seeing this in sports TV. It’s the exact same thing Maria Taylor and the New York Times did to Rachel Nichols two years ago at ESPN. In pursuit of a new contract, Taylor painted Nichols as a bigot by exaggerating offense to a secretly taped conversation involving Nichols and a friend.

What Sharpe, Barnes, and so-called black Twitter are doing mimics what the Anti-Defamation League, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver did to Kyrie Irving. Irving tweeted the poster of a documentary movie about the origins of American black people, and the ADL, the NBA, and the puppets that fear the ADL acted like Irving was the second coming of Adolf Hitler.

What’s happening is immoral, unfair, and dangerous. A crazed sports fan could attack Bayless. Over a tweet? A tweet that in no way disparaged Damar Hamlin or had any impact on his recovery.

It’s all a victimhood power grab backed by the threat of violence. It’s straight from the BLM-LGBTQ-ADL-NAACP Alphabet Mafia playbook.

The Alphabet Mafia controls Hollywood and “Tha Culture.”

Shannon “Big Suge” Sharpe is setting up Skip Bayless to be Tupac Shakur. Sharpe wants “All Eyez on Me.”

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