While working ever so diligently on my Master’s thesis and conducting an interview with tattoo artist White Trash Matt at Tattooed Heart Studios, I heard much commotion over an article from FOXSports.com that had the entire shop’s proverbial panties in a bunch. Intrigued, I left THS and looked up the website to see what all of the fuss was about. Sure enough I found Jason Whitlock’s column, and the subsequent topic for this blog. Whitlock’s commentary attempted to grasp why the NBA playoffs were causing ESPN, TNT and ABC’s ratings to skyrocket. The author stated that it was not because the most successful franchises over the last five years, the Spurs and Pistons, were battling out against the Lakers and Celtics, nor was it the flurry of megastars cluttering the courts. Whitlock did not even mention the legendary saga of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson that is being resurrected through Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. No, according to this master of the literary, the explanation behind why people are tuning into the NBA playoffs at astronomical rates lies in the lack of tattoos on the players. Whitlock stated:
Part of the reason more people are watching these playoffs is because the average fan isn’t constantly repulsed by the appearance of most of the players on the court. Most of the key players left in the playoffs don’t look like recent prison parolees. (FOXSports.com)
While I initially thought that this guy could not possibly be serious, I was quickly proved otherwise. Whitlock went on to say that appearance truly matters, and not wanting to see tattoos on athletes is the equivalent of not wishing to see fat people have sex in the movies. I’m dead serious—I could not make that up if I tried (and who said good journalism was dead?).
As an ink enthusiast, I could go on forever about the author’s malicious language and ill-mannered references to tattooed people as revolting. I’ve heard it a million times before, along with all of the disgusted looks and sneers—it’s irritating and it gets old, but at this point I realize not everyone shares my passion for body fashion. I also realize there was zero merit in Whitlock’s brazen declaration, so I’m not going to get on my high horse about critics of tattoo wearers. For the purpose of this blog my concern lies with the ignorant and racist remarks plaguing this article, however subtle or inconspicuous they may have been. On multiple occasions Whitlock referred to players like Delonte West and Larry Hughes as ex-cons and threatening menaces to society. Had he the choice, the author stated he would obligate Allen Iverson to play in a full sleeves and a turtleneck. I can only assume Whitlock and NBA commissioner David Stern became BFFs after Stern’s proposed “tattoo cap” last February. Both are hell-bent on ridding the NBA of its “hip-hop” image, and both sound equally ridiculous in their criticisms of players’ tattoos (Stern even scoffed that the next two expansion teams would have to be named the ‘Bloods’ and the ‘Crips’).
The ironic icing on the cake with regards to Whitlock’s column can be found at the top of his website which announces,
Jason Whitlock brings his edgy and thought-provoking style to FOXSports.com. Columnist for the Kansas City Star, he has won the National Journalism Award for Commentary for his ‘ability to seamlessly integrate sports and social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide.’
Edgy? Maybe. Thought-provoking? Well, I’m certainly writing about it. Challenging widely held assumptions about the racial divide? Hardly. I’m just a wee bit curious as to how Whitlock proposed to challenge anything by referring to three black basketball players with tattoos as violent criminals. He almost excused Kobe Bryant’s tattoo, calling him and a few other players with tattoos “clean-cut”, but couldn’t leave well enough alone by calling out the meaning behind Bryant’s ink, a post-rape trial tribute.
Altogether, Whitlock’s article was disastrously flawed. He may be controversial and provocative, but his commentary was without value and saturated with racism. I’m sure that I’ll check back in with his website in the future, but it will only be for new material to write my blogs on.