It was one of the more amazing internet stories last year. The vastly popular sports-based website Deadspin had gone through some managerial changes and when one of its executives suggested an alteration to the focus on the site it led to a level of editorial revolt. It was a remarkable chain of events, something I covered in its wake last fall. The combination of hubris and obstinance by all involved saw a clash of egos leading to the outlet facing its demise.
The summation is that a new management team wanted the site to shift away from the segment of the site that covered entertainment and culture to focus exclusively on sports. Some editors balked at this order. When one was fired for refusing to change, other editors flooded the site with a number of cultural articles. This led to another editor’s dismissal, then a bulk of the writing staff walked out in support, and within the matter of just days the remaining writers resigned.
The "sports only" order went out on a Monday, and by the weekend the site was a zombie. A desperate managing editor was posting a few articles and running a slew of pieces many recognized as older entries, just to appear as if it was an ongoing site. Days later that boss resigned and Deadspin was DOA.
By March the site was back to being operational but appeared to be a sanitized version of its old self. It was sports-specific, but there was a strained attempt to capture the old brash attitude with attention-seeking titles which only led to pedestrian articles; the attempt at snarky headlines gave way to tepid content. It was a zombie version of Deadspin, plodding along in an undead stumble, but then social forces changed.
Just as the site was reconstituted the worst challenge was faced -- the sports it covers were shut down. Now the site had to find ways to generate sports content, and then soon enough the social upheaval of the Black Lives Matter erupted. Now Deadspin was ironically cast into the very aspects of coverage that the prior management sought to avoid. With so many POC athletes, and so little coverage of their athleticism taking place, the cultural-political stories had to be covered simply for the sake of content.
A growing number of players have already made announcements that they will be engaging in kneeling during anthems, and you can anticipate the flood of lectures and pronouncements from athletes during pre and post-game interviews. As much dread is felt towards the NFL, college football is hardly going to be an escape. In just the past couple of weeks we have seen a coach cowed into submission for wearing a disapproved t-shirt during a fishing contest, the SEC announcing they are punishing Mississippi colleges over their hateful state flag (while ignoring Georgia actually uses the original Confederate flag), and any school with a Native American mascot is being called to alter its hateful logo.
To this extent the NBA announced that it will allow players to replace their names on the back of the jerseys to instead have a chosen activist cause displayed. Quick Question: will any player be permitted to have a phrase in support of an independent Hong Kong, or show support of Uighurs, following the controversies the league endured while it was trying to court the Chinese marketplace? I’ll lay odds in Vegas that this will never happen.
In this climate Deadspin appears to have not only dispatched the avoidance of cultural content but it is proudly promoting it. No, you will not find strictly entertainment or political content on the site -- unless it is tied in to sports. But since so damned much can be rolled back into the societal outrage this means the site has no shortage of activist coverage. Looking over its front page this weekend a dismally high amount of hectoring and lecturing pieces were displayed.
The main story was about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes who was embroiled in a controversy over a tweet alleging he wanted out of KC. The tweet was not real, but Deadspin explored the possibility deeply. Why would it care about something proven false, going into detail over a disproven story? Because the claim was Mahommes said he would not play unless the team changed the name from the hateful "Chiefs". This is what Deadspin is offering up -- over 800 words dedicated to what was, literally, fake news.
Now allowing that without sports being played there is a need to find stories, scrolling through the rest of the offerings shows Deadspin is following the lead of the rest of the media complex in this country in pushing as many activity-related items it can find. This does not bode well for the coming months, should sports gradually creep back into play. Here are just some of the top stories right now.
- Kansas State players will not play unless a student is expelled, over an offensive tweet.
- A historical piece on why they changed the name of the Washington Bullets (gun violence, obviously)
- The teams from the National Women’s Soccer League kneeling for the national anthem.
- Report on the noose found in the Bubba Wallace NASCAR garage.
- A Native American activist calls for the removal of offensive mascots.
- A racist race track owner was selling rope in the name of Bubba Wallace.
- Why ‘The Masters’ golf tournament needs to change its racist name.
- Ezekiel Manuel has an issue with his medical records released concerning Covid-19.
- How the NHL was tone deaf for a video of a player at a BLM march - because he was white.
Looking for a break from the constant drumbeat of negative social news, and you seek the sweet reprieve offered by the visceral mindlessness of sport? Well...don’t go to Deadspin. The site may have defied its titular demise in coming back to life, but they are fully embracing the second half of its compound name.
The coming seasons are going to be a slog.