OutKick founder takes ESPN, writer to task over 'woke' July 4 column; 'how does this piece serve sports fans?'

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The founder of the sports website OutKick blasted ESPN and one of its senior writers over a column published Monday decrying the state of the nation on Independence Day amid mass shootings, allegations of police misconduct and backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court over rulings that millions of Americans support in a "woke albatross of a column on the front page of your site arguing that America is awful."

Clay Travis, who co-founded the website, took writer Howard Bryant to task over his July 4th piece titled "Baseball, barbecue and losing freedom this Fourth of July," while repeatedly bringing up his 2011 arrest for assaulting his wife and a police officer for which he received probation. 

"As you read this systemic destruction of this woke garbage ESPN published on July 4th, I want you to ask yourself: how does this piece serve sports fans in any way?" Travis wrote in his own column titled: "ESPN Hates America on July 4th, Loves Woke Columnist Arrested For Choking His Wife."

Travis took issue with a number of points in Bryant's column, including his recollection of July 4 being "the best day of the year." He noted that many July 4th holidays during Bryant's youth would have occurred in the 1970s and 80s, at a time when President Richard Nixon resigned from the officer because of Watergate, high inflation under President Jimmy Carter and the Cold War with the Soviet Union. 


Outkick founder Clay Travis. On Monday, Travis criticized ESPN and one of its writers over a "woke" column published in July 4. 

Outkick founder Clay Travis. On Monday, Travis criticized ESPN and one of its writers over a "woke" column published in July 4.  (Fox News)

"My point in bringing all this up is simply to reflect that far from everything being perfect, the 1970’s and the 1980’s were filled with political tumult and difficulties as well," he wrote. "Yet America was great then in Bryant’s mind."

In his column, Bryant also alluded to the years after 9/11 in which displays of patriotism at sporting events have become commonplace. 

"By now, we’re all numb to the spectacle. At least publicly, the emphasis on the Fourth of July shifted from family to symbols years ago — Sept. 11 did that," he wrote. "Two decades of paid patriotism has made it ever harder to center the Fourth on reconnecting with your favorite aunts and uncles. No backyard barbecue and badminton game could compete with 20 years of military tributes and unquestioned nationalism."

"This pivot is fascinating because Bryant is directly arguing that the 1970’s and 1980’s July 4th celebrations weren’t about patriotism, that it was only after 9/11 that the 4th of July became draped in American symbolism and patriotism," Travis responded. "This is, quite clearly, 100% wrong."

The Fourth of July has been celebrated since 1777, and has been a federal holiday since 1870. Presidents of both parties have issued patriotic Fourth of July proclamations for more than a century. 

Early in his column, Bryant writes about a politically divided United States, while alluding to the recent overturning of Roe. v. Wade, which made abortion legal on the federal level in 1973. 

"Grilling, baseball and fireworks, first replaced by symbols — and now by a country tearing itself completely apart. July 4, 2022, falls in the midst of devastation," he wrote. "It is Independence Day in America with independence under current and relentless assault. From Miranda rights to the environment, to the separation of church and state, to guns — so many guns — people are reeling."

The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City on August 23, 2017.

The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City on August 23, 2017. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)


"The U.S. Supreme Court has run a chain saw through what two generations of Americans had known to be the legal baselines of their lives. Tens of millions of women today do not feel freedom and certainly are not celebrating independence," Bryant continued. "The people who can become pregnant who feel celebratory toward the Court may do so from the victory of their position, but it nevertheless remains true that the power of choice — and the right to privacy — has been taken from all of them."

He then took aim at those involved in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. 

In his criticism, Travis called the column "a long list of political grievances, with no rhyme or reason," that was centered on the riot. 

"If you’re thinking to yourself, why do I care about some random dude’s opinions of January 6th on a sports website, shut up and read, you deplorable insurrectionist!" he said. "The January 6th takes eventually, and awkwardly intersect with sports takes, but not before Bryant lies and says cops were killed on January 6th. This feels like an intentional error, since as I said above, many people likely edited this piece for weeks before it was published."

The rebuttal column also took issue with Bryant's take on people who refused to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic and those who express compassion for Palestinians and Black people, including Black athletes who speak out about injustice. 

"Are you kidding me? We had an entire NBA season played with ‘Black Lives Matter’ emblazoned on the court," Travis wrote. "Player names on uniforms were replaced with social justice slogans, every major brand in America fell all over itself to donate as much money as possible to BLM causes. Colin Kaepernick has like 18 different documentaries he’s being paid for, including an entire production deal with ESPN."


"From this point forward, the article is all left wing political grievance and victim culture. That’s fine, his self-defeating woke arguments are his own, but what’s important here is they are also ESPN’s own opinions," he continued. "Even if you feel Bryant’s rambling screed serves ESPN’s stated goal of ‘Serving sports fans. Any time. Anywhere,’ what’s important to recognize is an opinion arguing the exact opposite of this column would never be permitted or published anywhere at ESPN."

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