Books & Culture

Shut Up and Coach—If (and Only If) You’re Not Woke

On the impending “cancellation” of OSU’s Mike Gundy over a t-shirt and other offenses.

Oklahoma State University head football coach Mike Gundy stirred up the woke hornet’s nest after a picture surfaced of him wearing a One America News (OAN) Network t-shirt. “What a despicable man!” was supposed to be our dictated reaction. “How dare he wear a shirt with that logo?” Gundy’s star player, Chuba Hubbard, took to Twitter and declared, “I will not stand for this. This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.” Numerous teammates chimed in with similar reactions, and the university’s president and athletic director both expressed grave concerns over Gundy’s sartorial choice. 

Gundy’s crime was that he showed a mild form of support for a news network that National Public Radio has deemed “a far-right TV network that has a history of supporting Trump.”

Hubbard has now apologized for his part in the situation, and Gundy has promised that things will in fact “change.” It seems to be an amicable ending to a situation that shouldn’t have become a controversy in the first place. 

Under current law, Gundy is allowed to watch OAN, and it’s understandable why he would do so. A 2019 Gallup poll showed that “Americans remain largely mistrustful of the mass media” and only “41% currently have ‘a great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of trust in newspapers, television and radio to report the news ‘fully, accurately and fairly.’” Seeking news that is “Fully, accurately, and fairly” reported is presumably what drew Gundy to watch and show support for OAN.

Gundy has made comments in the past showing support for OAN. He was quoted in April lauding the network. “It was so refreshing. They just report the news. There’s no commentary. There’s no opinions. There’s no left. There’s no right,” he said. Where is the “hate” in news without commentary? Some managed to imagine some, writing juvenile and stupid articles about that comment of Gundy’s as well, though it did not garner anything like the current firestorm.

Let us assume that Gundy is a “conservative” or at least right-of-center. Is he not allowed to have thoughts and opinions on politics? Or is it that he’s not allowed to express them if he is “conservative”? Plenty of coaches and other people involved in athletics make their political thoughts and opinions known, with nary a peep against them. Steve Kerr, Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James, Megan Rapinoe, Greg Popovich, just to name a few, have all broadcast their political opinions widely and regularly, and they have uniformly been canonized by the media.

These sports figures have been quite free with their Leftist social-justice opinions, and if you don’t agree with them, they and the media make it clear that it’s because you’re a bigot. In fact, the average American, to these elites, is a shameful thing—just as the nation and its entire history is a disgrace. That is why our athletics intelligentsia insists we kneel during the national anthem: the United States is an evil place with an evil past, and honoring it by standing for the anthem and the national flag—or even doing something so tangential as wearing an OAN t-shirt—is something we cannot be allowed to do with impunity. 

Remember that Steve Kerr and Lebron James refused to condemn China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong but freely and frequently criticize their own nation, neighbors, and audience.

Contrast the treatment of these politically correct sports figures with the hot water that TV commentator Laura Ingraham got into for telling Lebron James to stay out of politics and “shut up and dribble.” The entire media-corporate complex sided with James and denounced Ingraham for pointing out that a disconnected millionaire who bounces a ball for a living is not necessarily a font of great political wisdom. Of course, James is entitled to his own opinion and to share it, but Ingraham should have been accorded the same courtesy. Similarly, Gundy surely should be allowed to wear a t-shirt that bears the OAN logo without being in danger of losing his livelihood—which certainly would have been the outcome of a full-fledged player revolt against him. (He’s certainly not out of the woods yet.)

The complaint is that Gundy “glorified” OAN by wearing their t-shirt. The media echo chamber considers OAN a fringe, conspiracy-theory-spewing mouthpiece for conservatives. If conspiracy theories are cause for condemnation, however, MSNBC, CNN, and every other major media outlet should have their feet held to the flames for their role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump and countless other instances of fake news as well as their association with fringy left-wing opinions. In their view, however, honesty is the standard of good journalism for thee but not for me. OAN presents news without parroting the leftist views of the “major” networks, and therefore it is evil and watching it is an offense punishable by unemployment. If we are willing to “cancel” someone because of the news sources they choose to patronize, we are in grave trouble as a nation.

Gundy has always supported his players and defended them against unfair criticism. He became something of a household name in 2007 for his “I’m a man; I’m 40” speech, in which he railed against the press for mocking one of his players and printing unfounded claims. The whole point of that speech was that the media should leave his players alone and go after him instead. He was protecting his players, and he has made a career of doing that.

That a man of such integrity should be at risk of losing his job because of his preference regarding  news outlets or unverified, decades-old claims of using a racial slur shows just how far we have fallen as a society. Our leaders’ values used to be like Gundy’s, not those of his detractors. Leaders of the past would have said, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. If you disagree with something specific the network said, rebut it. Don’t go around chastising people for holding views that are different from your own. Have an open dialogue and convince the other party that you’re right. Don’t just run around hurling epithets as if that were a counterargument.”

Today’s elites are puny and pathetic by comparison. They have become so sensitive to criticism that they must “cancel” everyone who doesn’t toe the progressive-Left woke media line. Until we as a nation decide we have had enough of people telling us what do and how to think, Gundy will have to shut up and coach—not because we all agree that sports figures should stay in their lane, but solely because people in power don’t want the rabble to be allowed to think.