Far be it for me to blast any blogger for blasting a player. The amount of incendiary shit I’ve written this month alone would probably provoke a confrontation — or 60 — from a sports figure if I was physically present at a practice facility during the work week.
What I don’t understand, however, is dynamics like the one between San Francisco 49ers’ defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and Sports Illustrated blogger Grant Cohn. Cohn, who has 34,400-plus followers on Twitter and covers the 49ers, isn’t a huge fan of Kinlaw to the point that he won’t just drop the criticism that “San Francisco probably should’ve drafted someone else in the first round.”
He’s even taken to his YouTube channel to disparage the third year player who’s appeared in a grand total of 19 games in two seasons largely due to knee issues. (I can respect the attempt at production value with the intro graphic and music despite the “Cohn Zone” coming off as a borderline parody that you’d see on SNL.)
The clip about Kinlaw being a bust, titled “Why 49ers DT Javon Kinlaw Was Such a Bad Draft Pick,” is less of a hit piece than the name implies. It’s actually a very coherent discussion between two seemingly well-informed journalists trying to make sense of why the team would select a player that high in the draft who had medical red flags, and wondering why the Niners’ physicians didn’t simply shut him down instead of trying to manage the knee and potentially making it worse by forcing him to play.
That said, not everyone is willing to sit through an eight minute video to determine if the take reflects the headline, and that carried over into OTAs this week when Kinlaw approached Cohn. The two exchanged words before the South Carolina alum knocked off Cohn’s trucker hat. The beat writer (vlogger?) then again took to his YouTube channel to express that his career — and a potential early retirement — flashed before his eyes during the spat.
Playing the victim is bizarre, and his argument is rife with racial undertones. Ideally, people are too smart to fall for the “white guy fears for his safety after angry Black man gets too close” lean, but perhaps I give society too much credit. (Self-written editor’s note: I do give society too much credit.)
Then, in a move that was always going to end poorly, Cohn invited Kinlaw on his channel to talk about why he’s so mad.
The back and forth is highly reminiscent of Cam’ron and Damon Dash hopping on a pre-canceled Bill O’Reilly Fox News segment and putting the host on tilt. By the end of Cohn’s “interview” the only point he tries to make is some vague implication that Kinlaw is poorly representing his team and organization.
Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Taybor Pepper jumped to their teammate’s defense on social media, and even non-49er Tyreek Hill chimed in. The players’ just sentiments were essentially “why the fuck is this troll allowed to show up at the facility when he’s more motivated by adding YouTube subscriptions than objectively covering the team, especially if he’s not even allowed to talk to the players?” — which Cohn attested to on video.
I can’t endorse Kinlaw lowering the exchange into a ball-measuring contest, but I will say it was entertaining seeing someone with a perma-5 o’clock shadow get visibly frustrated when the script is flipped on him. What Cohn probably views as brutal honesty can be — and was rightfully — construed as a personal attack. I’m sure Kinlaw loathes being in the training room as much as any player who’s been plagued by injuries, and repeatedly screaming that he’s a bust into your iPhone doesn’t benefit anyone.
Did he think Javon was going to show up and willingly play “The mad rapper”? This particular brand of journalism is why some athletes distrust or flat out hate the media. Hopefully Cohn figures that out, or he’s going to continue to get punked in interviews and on the Cohn Zone.