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Whitlock: ‘Coach Prime’ defenders applaud his character assassination of Cormani McClain
Mitchell Layton / Contributor, South Florida Sun-Sentinel / Contributor, Matthew Stockman / Staff | Getty Images

Whitlock: ‘Coach Prime’ defenders applaud his character assassination of Cormani McClain

This week, Deion Sanders backed a bus over 18-year-old Cormani McClain. No one complained. No one called “Coach Prime” a sellout or a bully for publicly criticizing Colorado’s top football recruit, a black teenager with a seemingly promising future.

Back in February, when McClain was a five-star high school prospect, he chose to renounce his commitment to play at hometown Miami to chase his dream at Colorado. A shutdown corner, he was a big get for “Coach Prime.” Everyone pretty much expected McClain to pair with Travis Hunter and give the Buffaloes an elite cornerback combination.

Through four games, it hasn’t happened. McClain has rarely touched the field. With Hunter injured, reporters are now inquiring why McClain isn’t playing. “Coach Prime” offered a blunt assessment.

“Study and prepare. Be on time for meetings, show up to the darn meetings,” Sanders told reporters. “Understand what we’re doing as a scheme. Want to play this game. Desire to play this game. Desire to be the best at this game at practice, in the film room, and on your own free time. You do know I check film time from each player on the week? Thursday, I need film time from the whole staff so I can see who’s preparing. And that’s just not about Cormani. It’s about a multitude of them. So if I don’t see that, you would be a fool to put somebody out there who’s unprepared.”

That is as brutal a public critique as you will hear from a college head coach about any player, especially a freshman. Deion justified it by stating, “I’m old-school.”

Well, I’m old-school, too. And I don’t have much problem with Deion’s harsh critique. It’s the kind of thing Bobby Knight would do during his heyday as a college basketball coach.

Many reporters and pundits blasted Knight for his bully tactics. No one feared criticizing Knight and his old-school, military methods of motivation. You weren’t called racist or a sellout for publicly questioning Knight’s coaching style. The sports media world hadn’t been overrun with feminized ex-jocks and groupie reporters obsessed with access. You could disagree with a high-profile sports figure without running the risk of a dumb jock or social media-controlled reporter screaming, “That’s racist.”

The good old days.

In this new era, Deion Sanders exists in a protective bubble where he’s shielded from the kind of fair criticism Bobby Knight endured throughout his career. Deion has black elite, celebrity privilege. Black and white elites guard Deion’s public persona as if world peace rested on maintaining his fragile ego.

So Deion gets to publicly blast an underperforming 18-year-old kid without anyone questioning it. But if Deion, a 56-year-old multimillionaire, is publicly criticized in the slightest way, a battalion of defenders are quickly dispatched to smear the critic as a racist or a sellout.

Robert Griffin III reporting for duty. Ryan Clark reporting for duty. Skip Bayless reporting for duty. The list goes on and on.

Everyone is mad at me for criticizing Deion Sanders. People are pretending to be mad at Oregon coach Dan Lanning for a brilliant pregame speech that never mentioned Deion’s name. Skip Bayless, who used to criticize elite athletes, called Lanning’s locker-room speech venomous vengeance. RG3 insinuated that Danny Kanell is racist because Kanell isn’t quite comfortable lauding Deion as the greatest coach in history.

Can you not see the hypocrisy and fraudulence? These guys are all social justice warriors. They’re fighting against the oppressor so that young black boys and girls aren’t victimized by white supremacy. They’re allegedly fighting for kids like Cormani McClain.

Or are they? Because I haven’t heard one of them defend McClain.

McClain needs tough love. He needs to be held to a certain standard. Public criticism will make McClain a better person and a better performer.

But public criticism will destroy Deion Sanders and all black men? Really?

These are elites protecting another elite so that they get access to whatever party Deion is throwing in Boulder. It’s a racket.

I was shocked when I learned on Wednesday that former NBA player Kwame Brown couldn’t see through this whole charade. I like Kwame. He has his own podcast. He’s really authentic. But he missed the mark on this whole Deion thing. Here’s why.

When Kwame was a 19-year-old NBA player straight out of high school, Michael Jordan used his elite status and leverage over the media to bully and smear Kwame Brown. Jordan was frustrated that the Wizards used the No. 1 pick to acquire a teenager rather than trade the pick for a veteran (Elton Brand) who could help Jordan win immediately.

Jordan’s dissatisfaction damaged Brown’s reputation for the rest of his career.

Cormani McClain may never recover from Deion’s public blast. No one cares because everyone just wants to idolize “Coach Prime.” Worshiping Deion is all that really matters. The kids at Colorado are all disposable. Their only purpose is to enhance Deion’s reputation.

Racial idolatry blinds us from seeing what’s obvious. A white coach throwing an 18-year-old black freshman under the bus would be criticized. Deion was praised for it.

I’ll be ripped for pointing this out.

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