ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard used his daily morning show Friday to defend himself, 24 hours after his comments on Magic Johnson ignited an internal firestorm and had one colleague, Keyshawn Johnson, accusing him of racism.
Le Batard, a veteran ESPN sports personality, didn’t as much rebut the racism claims — he didn’t think he needed to based on his “history” — as he attributed the angry responses to a larger race problem in the United States.
“Now, I am in the middle of a storm where there are a lot of people laughing that I am in the middle of a racism controversy,” he said on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.”
“The social justice warriors are eating their own! I found it interesting what it became. It’s instructive to what happens in America now.”
Le Batard, 48, said he was interested by the selection of people who reacted so vehemently to his critical take on the Lakers’ decision to hire Magic Johnson as their president of basketball operations Tuesday. The popular talking head questioned Johnson’s qualifications on his Thursday morning show and repeatedly called the decision a testament to his “fame” and “charm.”
“Once that fuse got lit, it became an explosion all over ESPN,” he said. “I found it fascinating to watch as all the black voices on ESPN lined up, but only the black voices, as far as I can tell.”
Le Batard partly blamed ESPN for the negative publicity, saying they limited their replays of his show to the one segment in which he was extra critical of the Lakers great. He also noted that the replays left out his co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner’s supportive responses throughout the show.
“The clip that played all over ESPN, which did me no favors, is the one where I criticized Magic Johnson for getting really good jobs because he is famous and charming,” he said. “Now if you listen to the whole show, you know I gave other reasons for it and it was a balanced discussion, but that’s the clip that played on ESPN all day.”
Even after ESPN colleagues Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Wilbon, and Magic Johnson’s former Lakers teammate Mychal Thompson, publicly blasted Le Batard on Thursday for his comments, he said he still stands behind his critiques of Johnson’s various career stints outside of basketball. Le Batard pointed to Johnson’s tweets as a sign of his damaged credibility.
“His Twitter account should disqualify him from the job,” he said. “We should have just done that. Can we do that? In fact, his Twitter account should host a late-night show. It would last longer than the 11 days his show did — ‘The Magic Hour.'”
Le Batard highlighted Johnson’s tweet congratulating the Knicks on their Phil Jackson hire and others promoting the NBA potential of draft busts Jimmer Fredette and Jahlil Okafor as examples of his lack of expertise for a basketball managerial position.
Le Batard seemed comfortable being at the center of the controversy.
“People are worried about me and they don’t need to be,” he said. “I have made my career with conversations like this.”
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