UFC fighter Sean Strickland’s recent anti-LGBTQ meltdown was so repugnant, it almost felt impossible to defend — even in the era of the hot take. Considering his history of homophobia, Strickland is one of the few fighters in the sport whose interviews do more damage to humanity than his fists.
The only type of media figure who’d possibly stand up for him would be someone so thirsty for attention that he’d willingly become the face of selling out one’s professional integrity for a national platform to read ads for catheters and off-brand cisgender-only beer.
Which is a long way of saying this story is about Jason Whitlock.
The once-respected sports pundit recently spoke about Strickland’s comments on an episode of his The Blaze-affiliated podcast “Fearless with Jason Whitlock.” For anyone who has followed Whitlock’s journalistic descent, the result was a predictable word salad of anti-LGBTQ fear mongering.
“If you’re heterosexual and have kids,” Whitlock intoned as he gravely looked into the camera, “they want you to feel ashamed if you want your kids to be heterosexual. They want you to feel ashamed. If you’re heterosexual, you had kids, of course your natural instinct is to want your kids to be heterosexual.”
Whitlock apparently believes Strickland’s words such as “If I had a gay son, I would think I failed as a man to create such weakness” can’t be homophobia because it’s a “natural instinct” for every straight parent to feel that way.
That’s grotesque. Not to mention ignorant — as if it’s normal for parents to root for their child’s sexuality the way they hope the kid eventually cheers for their favorite team.
Most of us have been living under the impression that a parent’s natural instinct is to want their kids to be happy. But that must be because we’re part of the woke mob.
Later, Whitlock went on to assert that Strickland’s diatribe was about “authenticity” and “free expression,” echoing UFC President Dana White’s “we have free speech” cop-out.
No one was arguing that Strickland shouldn’t have free speech. Congress did not spontaneously pass a law requiring the UFC to cut his mic mid-rant and play a recording of “One Of Your Girls.”
Strickland was spewing hate speech. In response, many people who heard it expressed understandable revulsion. And if powerful voices like Whitlock and White were not revolted by it, it was natural to wonder what that said about them.
It’s been a precipitous fall for Whitlock. A decade ago, he was a national columnist for ESPN charged with helping create a sports and culture website dedicated elevating the voices of Black writers called The Undefeated. In 2011, he appeared on an Outsports podcast where among other things he talked positively about how gay people are using sports to promote equality.
Now he’s defending open bigotry on a platform founded by Glenn Beck — the first name you think of when you look for intelligent sports discourse.
Compare Whitlock’s words to those of out UFC Champion Raquel Pennington, who responded to Strickland in an interview after winning the belt.
“I just feel that’s the reason why the world is the way it is. So many people have to make comments about other people’s lives or the way that they live or gender and race. It stems from there. I can learn so much from you, you can learn so much from me if you’re just willing to sit there and listen and learn as people,” she said.
Pennington’s response to Strickland’s hate speech was infinitely more insightful than Whitlock’s. That’s why she’s the one who’s still relevant.