“First Take” co-host Max Kellerman had some harsh words for SEC football fans Thursday morning, labeling them as being “easy to propagandize” and “almost immune to facts.”
Kellerman was responding to his co-host Stephen A. Smith’s assertion that the SEC canceling or delaying football this fall would have political consequences for President Donald Trump. Kellerman disagreed with Smith’s argument, claiming that the southeastern part of the country is Trump’s base and they will allow the president to “shift the blame” to someone, or something, else.
“You made the argument a couple weeks ago, you thought if SEC football wasn’t played that could swing the general election because people in Trump’s base would be very upset that they didn’t have football, which is practically a religion down there,” Kellerman said in the video you watch above. “I disagreed because [Trump] would simply shift blame because the pandemic is raging. They seem to be susceptible to very low-quality information and easy to propagandize and almost immune to facts. Because, as Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s advisor, said, they have alternative facts. If they stay in their propaganda silos — like the Fox News propaganda silo — it wouldn’t matter what happened because they’d say the handling of the pandemic has been great. The handling of the pandemic has been the worst in the industrialized democratic world, by far. By far, in the United States, at a federal level, it’s been a disaster. And as a result we’re dealing with this pandemic. And yet I didn’t think that would affect voters because the blame would be shifted.”
ESPN is a major rights holder for the SEC and owns and operates the SEC Network.
Kellerman added that if the NFL, which cuts across both parties as well as independent and “swing” voters, were to be canceled or halted, whether due to social justice causes or the pandemic itself, that could have “political consequences” for the president.
“It doesn’t just hit one or another’s political base, but insofar as there’s a such thing as swing voters still, it would absolutely affect some of them. If the NFL season isn’t played or it’s interrupted, as a result of social justice issues — and of course we all understand this is against the backdrop of the pandemic,” he continued. “I know we exist in this sports bubble and we have this outsized idea of the effect of sports, but I think that might actually have political consequences in a general election.”
Notable Athletes Who Have Opted Out of 2020 Seasons Over COVID-19 Concerns (Photos)
Major U.S. professional sports like the NBA and MLB have returned (the NFL is getting started on it 2020 season), but not everyone will play over concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.
The six-time All Star catcher with the San Francisco Giants opted out of the 2020 season after he and his wife planned to adopt two identical twin girls who were, a journalist for The Athletic reported.
David Price, a pitcher formerly for the Boston Red Sox who this season was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, opted out of the season on July 4 out of the interest of the his health and his family's.
Ian Desmond, an outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, opted out in part because of his pregnant wife and four young children. It was reported that he'd be sacrificing $5.55 million in pro-rated salary for 2020.
Ryan Zimmerman, the 35-year-old first baseman for the World Series champs Washington Nationals, clarified that he would not be retiring by opting out this season. He forfeited $740,000 of pro-rated salary.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season after seeing his teammate Freddie Freeman contract the coronavirus and be sidelined with symptoms of COVID-19. "Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough," Markakis said in a press conference. "It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that's going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes."
(Update: Markakis pulled a surprise move on July 29 and decided to rejoin the team for the remainder of the season).
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, 32, became the first known MLB player to opt out of the 2020 season on June 29. He was scheduled to make $16 million in a full season and is a free agent in 2021.
Felix Hernandez, a longtime pitcher and All Star for the Seattle Mariners, opted out of the 2020 season on July 4. He signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves this season and was competing for a rotation spot.
Joe Ross and Tyson Ross
Joe Ross, 27, and Tyson Ross, 33, two brothers and MLB pitchers for the Washington Nationals and a free agent respectively, both signed out of the 2020 season.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks, 23, opted out of the season after being identified as a high-risk player due to his Type 1 diabetes. He's also recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Michael Kopech, 24, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, announced on July 10 through the team's general manager that he would be sitting out the 2020 season. Kopech was recovering from Tommy John surgery that kept him sidelined in 2019.
Before New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the season, the team was alarmed to find that Cespedes did not report to the ballpark and that he and his belongings were missing from his hotel room. The team was not made aware of his decision to opt out prior to his absence.
Stroman became the second Met to opt out in the middle of the season. Stroman never threw a pitch this season, beginning the year on the Injured List. He cited concerns over the outbreaks on the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins as his reason for sitting out.
A week into the season, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain opted out of the season after the team's home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Cardinals players.
Cauley-Stein opted out on June 25 because he and his partner are expecting a baby in July.
Dinwiddie is one of the few players that won't be playing due to a positive COVID-19 test. On July 7 the Nets' doctors advised Dinwiddie he should not play out of an abundance of caution.
Bradley, a vocal critic of the NBA's restart taking attention away from the nationwide social justice movement, opted out on June 23 in order to remain with his wife and three children.
Chandler opted out on June 28 so he could remain with his family and grandmother.
Sefalosha opted out on July 1, though a specific reason was not given. He had previously expressed concerns over playing in the bubble amid the pandemic.
Like his teammate Dinwiddie, Jordan also will sit out the rest of the 2020 campaign after revealing he tested positive for the disease.
The Indiana Pacers star had just come back from a ruptured quad tendon before the shutdown. He cited the uncertainty of the Orlando bubble as part of his reason for opting out, but he reversed course and ultimately played in the first game for the Indiana Pacers' restart.
(Update: Oladipo joined the Pacers in Orlando and played in scrimmages, but it is still unclear if he'll be part of the season restart).
Ariza opted out June 22 in order to commit to a one-month visitation window with his young son. Families are not allowed inside the NBA bubble until the end of August.
Smith was set to play for the Baltimore Ravens this season.
Mack, an undrafted rookie with the Carolina Panthers, decided on July 28 to forgo his rookie season out of uncertainty from the virus.
The Chicago Bears defensive tackle opted out on July 28 citing health concerns.
Another undrafted rookie, this one with the Dallas Cowboys. Guirdry is one of two Cowboys to opt out, joining Maurice Canady.
Funchess is skipping his first season with the Green Bay Packers over COVID-19 concerns. He had family members that contracted the virus.
The Kansas City Chiefs' starting lineman was the first NFL player to opt out of the season. Duvernay-Tardif spent the offseason as medical volunteer at a long-term care facility in Montreal that was treating coronavirus patients.