Sports Media Blunders: Who Will Put Foot in Mouth Next?

Mike Ditka prepares to say something asinine. Photo by WEBN-TV (Flickr) CC License

Like it or not, we live in a 24-hour news cycle, meaning every action, no matter how small, gets reported upon and dissected ad nauseam. Kevin Durant learned that lesson the hard way in late September when he mistakenly used his personal Twitter account to throw his former coach and teammates under the bus. The gaffe led off every sports talk-show in the country and trended across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for several days afterwards.

Cam Newton learned it too when he dismissively laughed off a question from Panthers beat-writer Jourdan Rodrigue. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” he said at the time. “Like, it’s funny.” Newton’s offhand remark made headlines around the U.S. and resulted in countless tweets and op-ed pieces from justifiably irate female journalists.

The latest sports figure to find himself in hot water is former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who set race relations back several decades by claiming there’s been no oppression in the U.S. in the last 100 years. Ditka made his controversial remarks in an interview with Jim Gray on Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show.

Durant, Newton, and Ditka aren’t the first athletes to find themselves in hot water because of public remarks, and they certainly won’t be the last. We’ve taken a long, hard look at the history of sports media blunders and have come up with odds and predictions for who will get in trouble next, what they’ll get in trouble for, and what kind of punishment they can expect. We also have a hunch about how the aforementioned jocks on our list will make amends for their public miscues.

Making Amends

How will Cam Newton atone?

  • Wears only female designers for the rest of the season: 1/2
  • Joins a feminist march on Washington: 15/1
  • Petitions his congressman for equal pay for equal work: 25/1
  • Joins a feminist book club: 1000/1
  • FIELD: 19/6

Cam Newton is nothing if not fashion conscious. The 28-year-old clotheshorse invests a considerable portion of his $20.7 million salary into designer threads and proudly displays his latest ensembles at post-game press conferences. It isn’t likely Newton will become a card-carrying member of the feminist movement, but we can definitely imagine him wearing nothing but female designers for the remainder of the season. Get ready for plenty of colorful outfits courtesy of Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, and Vera Wang.

What’s next for Kevin Durant?

  • Deletes his anonymous Twitter accounts: 1/1
  • Limits his time online: 3/1
  • Hires a social media manager: 9/1
  • Swears off social media: 20/1
  • Sends a tweet criticizing Russell Westbrook’s inability to share the ball: 75/1
  • FIELD: 10/1

Durant’s anonymous Twitter accounts have vanished faster than the Brooklyn Nets’ championship aspirations. The eight-time All-Star is still active on Twitter, but his tweets have become decidedly more corporate in nature since his social-media snafu in September. Most are tightly-edited videos created by pro studios, with the occasional retweet of a magazine fluff piece thrown in. Thank goodness for Draymond Green and his flying crotch kicks, or otherwise things in the Bay Area would get truly dull.

Mike Ditka’s foot-in-mouth follow-up?

  • Publicly apologizes:1/4
  • Undergoes sensitivity training: 12/1
  • Looks up “oppression” in the dictionary: 20/1
  • Returns to his cave: 30/1
  • FIELD: 20/1

Ditka has already issued his first apology and there are likely more mea culpas coming. The 77-year-old said in a prepared statement that he was “completely intolerant of any discrimination” and was proudly “color blind.” It’s a positive first step, although one has to wonder if the media will continue to seek out Ditka after his latest misstep.

Who’s Got Next?

Which league will produce the next media controversy?

  • NFL: 3/2
  • NBA: 4/1
  • MLB: 6/1
  • NHL: 12/1
  • MLS: 25/1
  • FIELD: 6/1

The media has been documenting the peaceful protests in the NFL nearly as closely as the games themselves. With so much around-the-clock scrutiny, it’s only a matter of time before a player lashes out in frustration, or a coach says something off color in a magazine think-piece. When you’re dealing with 1,700 players and hundreds of support staff, nearly anything can — and eventually will — happen. (It’s basically the infinite monkey theorem.)

Let’s also not discount the role the President could play in all of this. Experience has taught us that all it takes is one incendiary late-night tweet from POTUS to really get things rolling.

Floyd Mayweather is all about the Benjamins. (Photo: SO MAX O (Flickr) CC License)

Which athlete will contract foot-in-mouth disease next?

  • Floyd Mayweather: 2/1
  • Nick Kyrgios: 5/1
  • Nick Young: 8/1
  • Colin Kaepernick: 11/1
  • Rob Gronkowski: 15/1
  • Daniel Murphy: 20/1
  • Ronda Rousey: 25/1
  • Hope Solo: 30/1
  • LeBron James: 45/1
  • FIELD: 8/1

Floyd Mayweather has put his foot in his mouth so many times that it wouldn’t surprise us to discover a permanent swoosh imprint on his tongue. The 40-year-old boxer caused a major stir back in 1999 when he referred to a proposed $12.5 million deal as a “slave contract,” and many fans still haven’t forgiven him for his racially-charged rant about Manny Pacquiao in 2010. Most athletes usually mellow out in their 40s, but it feels like Money is just warming up. “I’m running my mouth a lot, and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up,” he’s famously said. “If you don’t shut me up, I’m going to keep running my mouth.”

Which commentator will contract foot-in-mouth disease next?

  • Charles Barkley: 3/1
  • Stephen A. Smith 4/1
  • Jim Rome 5/1
  • Skip Bayless: 7/1
  • Dick Vitale: 15/1
  • Al Michaels: 20/1
  • Nick Swisher: 25/1
  • Joe Buck: 50/1
  • FIELD: 10/1

Charles Barkley has never been afraid of being politically incorrect. In fact, he relishes it. The Round Mound of Rebound created a stir as recently as September 20th when he lashed out at the “poor babies” in the NBA who “can’t play back-to-back games.” His comments received plenty of play in the media, but they pale in comparison to some of things he’s said in the past. This is, after all, the same self-described “dumbass” who ranted about the “big ‘ol women” in San Antonio and called the city a “gold mine for Weight Watchers.” Stay classy, Charles.

Which topic will incite the next media controversy?

  • Politics: 7/2
  • Race: 4/1
  • Religion: 9/2
  • Gender Equality: 10/1
  • Playing Time: 20/1
  • Practice. Are we talkin’ ‘bout practice?: 100/1
  • FIELD: 3/1

Our society has become so hyper-sensitive and politically-correct that almost anything can incite a controversy. Something as small as a perceived slight on Twitter or an over-the-top touchdown celebration can lead to a massive media maelstrom. And that’s a shame, because it detracts from the serious issues unfolding everyday under the Trump administration. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and gender and racial equality are all under attack and need to be addressed. The peaceful protests in the NFL are part of that conversation and are likely to be at the center of the next media controversy that sweeps across the nation.

What will be the repercussions of the next media controversy?

  • Loss of endorsements: 5/1
  • League-mandated fine: 6/1
  • League-mandated suspension: 8/1
  • Team-mandated fine: 10/1
  • Team-mandated suspension: 11/1
  • Termination of contract: 14/1
  • Civil suit: 25/1
  • Arrest: 75/1
  • FIELD: 5/2

Leagues and teams can’t always punish athletes for saying something stupid, but companies certainly can. Most businesses insist on ironclad morality clauses so they can pull the plug instantly if a celebrity endorser threatens to blemish their image. That’s what happened to Cam Newton when Dannon unceremoniously dumped him following his sexist comment.

“We are shocked and disheartened at the behavior and comments of Cam Newton towards Jourdan Rodrigue, which we perceive as sexist and disparaging to all women,” said the company in a prepared statement. “It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace. It’s simply not OK to belittle anyone based on gender.” Sorry, Cam, yogurt don’t play like that.

Dannon has since signed Dak Prescott to replace Newton and will likely be doing everything in its power to make sure he doesn’t spend too much time with Ezekiel Elliott.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports and has created campaigns for the WWE, the NHL, and the NFL. Ryan's critically acclaimed stories have also been published in 20 books and have been featured on more than 170 radio stations and 40 newspapers across North America.