Welcome to Deadspin’s IDIOT OF THE MONTH! The year is 2021. The whole world has gone stupid. Behold.
T5. Montreal Canadiens
It can’t be a good sign when the owner of a team has to put out a letter to the fans apologizing for the team’s draft pick. It’s an even worse one when he completely botches that letter. So has gone the past week in Montreal.
The Montreal Canadiens, despite all sense of decency and Logan Mallioux’s own preferences, drafted a man in the first round who was criminally convicted in Sweden in 2020 for sharing an intimate photo of a woman amongst his teammates without her permission. And Mallioux compounded matters by never really apologizing for it according to her. Whatever grade you might attach to the crime, it’s a violation of her.
We have become sadly accustomed to teams “doing it anyway,” when it comes to signing or drafting (or not suspending) a player involved in such criminal behavior.
They know the dance, and they go through it with all the sincerity and emotion of a hungover sloth. The Canadiens seemed genuinely bewildered that there was even an outcry. Which led to words like “consequences,” “concerns,” and “understanding,” which clearly the Habs don’t know the definition of.
It was an organization-wide “we’re sorry you’re offended” without ever taking ownership of why anyone would be. What’s clear is that no one in the Montreal front office thought it was a big deal, and had no idea how to react when it became one.
But of course, no one got fired over it. Again, not “understanding” “consequences.”
T5. Jason Whitlock
Physically, it’s self-explanatory, you know it when you see it: Mark Henry lifting the infamous 172-pound Thomas Inch dumbbell. Amanda Nunes violently knocking out Cris Cyborg. LeBron James dunking on a fast break at any point of his career. But there’s also strength in vulnerability. In letting your guard down in front of millions. In putting yourself before the organizations you’re in business with, and risking those relationships, many of which are probably fake anyway. In stepping away from the daily rigors of training and competing to properly manage your mental health. To protect your sanity. To sacrifice a potential gold medal. To run the risk of creating enemies among your teammates. And to ultimately risk people calling you a “coward,” and question your greatness despite your status as the best in the world at what you do.
It’s easy to pick excellence apart when you’re not excellent, and that’s what some people have decided to do with Simone Biles. It just so happens that it’s this dude, Jason Whitlock, again. And if you’ve been around a bit, you know it’s not surprising, and that not more needs to be said. Additionally, those reactions are why it’s important for the Simone Bileses, Naomi Osakas, DeMar DeRozans, Liz Cambages, and other star athletes of the world to be vulnerable. It’s why other people — regular people like those reading this — should be encouraged to do the same in their workspace. And if the people among you aren’t responding with support, they probably don’t deserve you anyway.
We’re not enabling cowards, we’re supporting people.
4. Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders makes his way onto this list because he was tripping like a toddler on roller skates during SWAC media days. Sanders was perturbed with a media member calling him “Deion” and cut short media day because he believed that he was being disrespected when in actuality the media member was just doing his job. Deion said that no one calls Alabama head coach Nick Saban ‘Nick,’ though many reporters actually do. I understand if Deion wants to be addressed a certain way then we should respect that but don’t make a faulty comparison to someone else and make it seem like a journalist who isn’t your subordinate is disrespecting you or your status in the game by calling you by your name.
3. T.J. Ward
Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera is pissed off about his team’s low vaccination rate.
“I’m truly frustrated,” Rivera, a cancer survivor said. “I’m beyond frustrated. Part of the reason I walk in with a mask on is I’m immune-deficient. I just hope that our guys can understand that.”
Understood, right? Okay.
Enter T.J. Ward, who… basically blamed Rivera for contracting cancer in the first place.
Yeah, you read that right.
Holy shit. You earned it, T.J. We’ll get Sofia Reyes to sing to you about how stupid a thing that was to say.
2. Stephen A. Smith
It always feels a tad useless to put someone like Stephen A. Smith, or Skip Bayless, or Jason Whitlock on these lists. Their job is to just make noise in any and all directions for the sake of making noise, so of course every so often they’re going to say something stupid. You can’t keep billowing smoke before someone coughs.
Smith’s criticisms of Shohei Ohtani were clearly gross, ignorant, and even dangerous considering the atmosphere Asian-Americans find themselves in these days. The last thing this country needs is someone on a major bullhorn doing the whole “SPEAK ENGLISH!” routine. That’s only going to rouse the very people that Smith himself would like to see ushered out the door. But when ESPN’s charge to Smith is to keep talking and keep yelling, he’s going to lose control of the car on occasion. If his appeal is his off-the-cuff, don’t-know-what-might-happen-next style, then having considered and measured thoughts isn’t really part of the equation.
This is the deal ESPN has struck with Smith, without ever saying it out loud. They’ll swap the occasional misstep as long as he doesn’t completely drive off a cliff in exchange for the attention the constant bellowing gets. You need look no further than hockey fans begging for Smith to comment on hockey as soon as ESPN won the TV rights to the NHL, even though Smith has about as much expertise in hockey as a lamp post. They just want to hear the noise. And as long as the noise is there, ESPN is happy to put up with the price.
Let’s be blunt: Sha’Carri Richardson might have smoked some weed, but it’s the United States Olympic Committee that’s the dope in this story.
Richardson, the 21-year-old sprinter who won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, tested positive for marijuana after that race, and unlike so many drug test flunkers before her, actually admitted that she’d done it. No false positives, no secondhand smoke excuse, no threats of lawsuits to clear her name.
After testing positive for the non-performance enhancing drug, Richardson explained that having just learned of the death of her biological mother, she smoked. That’s legal in Oregon, where she did it, but a no-no while in competition. While, yes, that is a rule, and there are penalties for breaking the rules, there also are loads of examples of governing bodies bending or flat-out ignoring the same rules when they see fit.
These very Olympics, for instance, feature not Russia, but Team ROC, as after getting caught up in a state-sponsored doping program — actual performance enhancers — Russia got the boot from the Games. Just not the country’s various athletes. The big penalty is that none of us get to hear Russia’s national anthem, arguably the best in the world, when they win a gold medal, the athletes’ uniforms don’t say Russia, and they compete under an Olympic flag instead of the nation’s tricolor.
The USOC didn’t even have to keep Richardson home. Her one-month suspension precluded her from running the 100m in Tokyo, but the way the Olympic schedule lined up, not the 4x100 relay. Still, the idiots at the USOC decided to leave her on this side of the Pacific. Over a few puffs of a legal drug, America’s sports leaders decided to put the kibosh on her Olympic dreams, penalized the rest of the relay team by not including the nation’s top sprinter, and even denied its TV partner, NBC, a chance to make the most of her story — exactly the kind of emotional thing that Olympic coverage thrives on.
Meanwhile, American fencer Alen Hadzic, accused of sexual misconduct by three women, got to go to Tokyo, as an arbitrator ruled he was eligible to compete. Hadzic, who was suspended from Columbia University for the 2013-14 school year amid an “investigation involving sexual consent,” had to stay away from the rest of the team, which didn’t even want him there, but he was still allowed to go and be an Olympian — an alternate, only there to compete if another American swordsman had to pull out.
The USOC was fine with all that, ruling that Hadzic could move to a hotel closer to the Olympic training center after his initial banned-from-the-athletes-village accommodations were half an hour away. They bent over backwards for him, while going out of their way to make Richardson’s punishment as severe as they could. Idiots.