Have you noticed the lone voice standing out from the herd of sports media's progressively bleating sheep? It belongs to the host of the Will Cain Show, which launched Jan. 2 on ESPN Radio and ESPNEWS (3-6 p.m. ET). In an interview with The Sporting News, Michael McCarthy characterized Cain as "outspoken" because he's conservative and fearless in opposing the social justice warriors who dominate sports media coverage.
McCarthy clearly identified himself as one of us boys standing against those conservatives. He pointed out that Cain previously worked as a political analyst for CNN and Glenn Beck's The Blaze and contributed to National Review. Cain mixes it up with lefties Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN's First Take and drew charges of racism from Whoopi Goldberg on The View for taking the wrong position on Indian nicknames. Cain also opposes efforts in Illinois and California to ban youth tackle football, calling it a Culture War front aimed at reducing toxic masculinity. He also speaks out against the lack of diversity of thought among media.
Given the opportunity to cage this lone wolf conservative, McCarthy focused heavily on questions about ESPN and accusations of liberal bias. He wanted to know how conservatives can accuse ESPN of political correctness when it employs Will Cain. "If we’re such flaming liberals, why is he getting more air time?' So Will, how do you feel about carrying the complaints of conservative ESPN haters on your shoulders?"
Cain denies that he shoulders such a responsibility and said he doesn't speak for white America or any other group. He merely gives his honest point of view.
"Has ESPN has become too liberal?" McCarthy wanted to know? "I am unique at ESPN. Most people’s point of view is different than mine. I think a lot of that comes across" Cain answered.
McCarthy: "You hear it all the time. Why can’t ESPN ‘Stick to Sports?’ What about it Will?" Cain replied:
I’m sympathetic to that completely. Even though I come from a political background, I would say my show is one of the most reluctant to go into political spheres on any sports network, not just ESPN. I know why the audience is here. I know why they come for sports, what they want to listen to. They don’t go to the toy aisle to buy Metamucil but to buy something they want to have fun with. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. At times, it’s going to be unavoidable. Those two worlds are going to collide. The difference is do you go looking for it? Do you look for excuses? If every time sports just slightly touches into the world of politics, or politics slightly touches into the world of sports, is it an excuse for you, a green light, to go down the path of having the political conversation that’s pent-up inside you?
Okay, Will, how about when Laura Ingraham said on Fox that LeBron James should “Shut Up and Dribble”? ESPN strongly backed LeBron’s free speech rights and some people thought she was doing the racist dog-whistle thing. And you said LeBron should not be “inoculated” from criticism when he enters the political arena. What about that? Here's how Cain's answer:
"I believe two things about that story. First, there was the question of whether what Ingraham said was racist. I am reluctant to immediately read into people’s motivation and character, then extrapolate. So what motivated Laura Ingraham? Was it racism that motivated her point of view. Well, looking back over her career, I find many examples of her making similar statements toward anchors and singers and so forth. So there’s evidence she plays this ‘Stay in Your Lane’ game consistently."
Cain added "we can’t just go about castigating everybody we disagree with. We can't make them immoral. We can say they’re wrong. Sometimes just being wrong is a heavy enough hammer. Right?
"I think it’s condescending to say, ‘Well, he’s above criticism or we shouldn't question LeBron James.’ No, it’s respectful to engage and say, ‘This is why he’s wrong and this is what’s he’s wrong about.’
McCarthy then wanted to know if, "since Fox News caters to conservative viewers, wasn’t it a natural for them to target ESPN and LeBron?" Cain deflected this with the comment that "LeBron ventured into their world with that commentary" and "that’s a definite go as far as discussing."
TSN's interview switched over to one of the most biased sports media personalities of them all -- Jemele Hill of ESPN -- and the most bone-headed question of the interview: did she go too far calling Trump a white supremacist?
"Yes, I think Jemele did go too far," Cain said. ... "I do think she went too far. It goes back to what I talked about earlier. She’s judging character and intent -- when actions give you plenty of things to criticize. Some of those, by the way, are outside our sphere. The president isn’t inoculated either by the way. When those worlds of sports and politics collide, I don’t think the president isn’t inoculated from criticism. I think we just have a responsibility to do it in a way that isn’t over our skis. Like I said, it's just really dangerous when you indict someone’s motives, characters and intentions."
Come on, McCarthy shot back in Hill's defense, if that's what she truly believes why shouldn't she say it? Cain said free speech and responsibility both come with the job and it's a matter of what we should do, not just what we can do. McCarthy then told Cain that those conservatives need to realize "when ESPNers like Jemele get in trouble, it’s usually for something they tweet, not something they said on ESPN air? Does that point to the danger of social media?" Cain's answer demonstrated that he's responsible enough to avoid spouting off on Twitter. Some others should take advice ... Jemele.
Cain's presence on television and his voice of reason are long overdue in the liberally dominated world of sports media.