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On Tuesday, Skip and Shannon: Undisputed discussed Ja Morant’s return to the NBA on Monday night vs. Dallas Mavericks after being away from the team for brandishing a weapon on his Instagram account.
Sitting on the bench after an eight-game league suspension, Morant rooted for his teammates who would eventually defeat the Kyrie Irving-led Dallas Mavericks 112-108 in a close matchup worthy of post-game celebration.
During an interview with teammate Santi Aldama, Morant excitedly interrupted, and quoted a few lyrics from NBA Youngboy.
Unconvinced of Morant’s morality, FS1’s Skip Bayless immediately began to dissect the artist and lyrics in connection to Ja’s recent controversies.
“The problem is that line comes from a song that’s just rife with gun violence. Okay, well, a lot of rap lyrics have gun violence,” said Bayless. “Okay, but then said rapper [NBA Youngboy], if you go back and look at his recent past he’s been in jail several times for robbery and attempted murder and all kinds of assault charges so he fits to the part of the song right? He’s actually playing the role of the song, right?”
“It’s not the best look to quote that rapper just as you’re coming back from dangling a gun,” said Bayless.
He later continued, “I’m just reacting to me because I feel a little duped over everything that just happened. He’s a sharp kid. I gotta tell ya, are you in a way taunting us a little bit like ‘I told the adults what they needed to hear but know what I am back and I’m back to being Ja.’ Right. Okay. It could come off that way to some people. I’m just saying this. I don’t think the commissioner would love that.”
Though Bayless often brags of his fandom and affiliation with Lil Wayne, who also uses hyperbolic wordplay to artistically express himself, his earlier speculation that Morant is a member of the Crips gang speaks to his outlandish and brazen ability to create unproven narratives that often outlast the controversy itself.
Later, Bayless and co-host Shannon Sharpe discussed Kyrie Irving’s thoughts on the ongoing media narrative against Morant.
On Monday night, Irving said in part, “any hardship in life builds character.”
“There was an overload of judgment on Ja, there was an overload of judgment on what I had going on, there’s usually an overload of judgment from the public court of opinion,” stated Irving.
Though Irving is often accused of being aloof, overthinking, and mercurial, just last week, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith admitted after many months of bashing Irving that it was “personal” between himself and Kyrie.
“At the end of the day, I wish we could say we control what the media says and control what other people say, so with Ja dealing with that, I think the initial shock was dealing with the public opinion and all of the extra hoopla that comes with it,” explained Irving.
“But there’s a real human being dealing with emotions so I cared about that aspect. I wished him well wishes, his family well wishes, I prayed for his peace of mind. Basketball is one thing, but peace of mind is everything,” said Irving.
Sharpe rebutted in part, “I guess in the media we’re supposed to see a transgression of an athlete and say ‘well.’ He later openly questioned, “So I’m just trying to figure out what Kyrie thinks if you do something and play a sport in which the media covers, [are] they are supposed to make it seem like it didn’t happen?”
Bayless would respond, “I agree with every point you just made, maybe times ten.”
Hypocrisy in sports coverage is nothing new
What Sharpe and Bayless refuse to acknowledge is the historic and present-day nature of national media to push certain narratives about Black athletes specifically and Black people in general.
Even if we consider retired NFL quarterbacks, while Michel Vick’s home hosted dog fights that ended in death, he was sent to federal prison and his name was dragged through the media’s mud for years on end.
Meanwhile, men like Brett Favre who reportedly worked with state officials to rob Mississippi’s poorest citizens, has been able to sue Shannon Sharpe in February for defamation, and has not been publicly announced as even a suspect.
Though former Philadelphia Eagle receiver Riley Cooper, who in 2013, called a Black man a ni–er at a Country concert, entered into a counseling center for a weekend, on Tuesday Bayless would question Ja’s sincerity while at the facility.
“We’re all rooting for him, and he says he’s going to get help, and then I don’t think he really went and got help,” said Bayless. As Sharpe seemed to laugh in agreement, Bayless began to recount each of Morant’s missteps for the duration of the segment to provide “context” to their recent comments.
The news and sports media have been biased long before Ja Morant or Kyrie Irving
Beyond sports, biased news media coverage has affected missing Black women and girls, painted false narratives of welfare recipients and interwoven depictions of violence with images of Black masculinity.
It does this in several ways, such as by showing the mug shots of Black suspects more frequently than those of White suspects; depicting Black suspects in police custody more often; and paying greater attention to cases where the victim is a stranger.
Similarly, in the sports media, though embattled White current and former athletes are briefly mentioned, they do not sustain the same headlines, calls for punitive action, nor are their restorative actions and intentions up for question.
For Sharpe and Bayless not to acknowledge their own participation in the furtherance of the blatantly biased coverage on a network associated with Fox News is not only glaring, but speaks to the comfort and ease of even non-political or news media figures to propagandize Black people.