I have never been a fan of the TV show First Take. Not only is it two guys yelling at each other about sports, it's typically two guys yelling at each other about sports things that don't actually matter.
"Is LeBron clutch?", the ticker on the bottom reads, and Skip Bayless says LeBron is not clutch, even if his team has just won a basketball game. I would much rather watch a basketball game and then talk about what LeBron James, inarguably a very good basketball player, did well or not well than listen to someone debate whether he is "clutch," a thing that tends to depend on the last thing he did.
"Does Tim Tebow belong in the NFL?," the ticker at the bottom reads, and Skip Bayless says Tim Tebow does belong in the NFL. Tim Tebow was a second-string quarterback for the Jets two years ago and a free agent last year. I would much rather hear about players who are actively important in the NFL.
And thus, I have long ignored First Take, because it was people with loud, unnecessary sports opinions.
This past week, on two occasions, First Take has shot out of the realm of loud, unnecessary sports opinions into loud, reprehensible opinions on human beings. We can ignore loud sports opinions, but we cannot ignore these.
First, it was Stephen A. Smith on gay people, which Deadspin deconstructed in a post entitled "How to Legitimize Bigotry"
I am a proponent of most of the causes the gay community has fought for. And I think that it's wrong how they've been prejudiced against. But having said all that, I think it's important to recognize that that doesn't mean [you] have a right to [people being] comfortable with you.
That's not bad sports talk. That's a person saying gay people should be okay with straight people hating them.
Today, it was Stephen A. Smith on victims of domestic abuse, again via Deadspin:
I've tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I've done this all my life, let's make sure we don't do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it's law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn't negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let's try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn't happen.
That's not bad sports talk. That's a person saying women need to be careful of not provoking men to beat the crap out of them, in essence that women bear some responsibility for domestic violence.
We can ignore bad sports talk, because at the end of the day, it is still just sports talk. It is an opinion about a game. We don't need to stop and point because somebody thinks a good basketball player is worse at basketball than they are, or a bad football player is better at football than he is. We can't get too upset at a sports channel for airing bad sports talk. It is a sports channel, and if they feel bad sports talk gets more viewers than good sports talk, I can't hate on their money parade.
But this isn't bad sports talk. It's misogyny and homophobia. We can't ignore First Take on these fronts, because unlike bad sports talk, this has the power to leap off the TV screen and hurt people simply trying to be people, inside and outside of locker rooms across the United States. Hopefully, ESPN realizes that distinction as well.