Fox Sports personality Skip Bayless has crossed a line that may be too much for sports fans to overlook.
Bayless has made a living by being the odd man out in a room, and he has been able to do this very successfully. He has sparked controversy throughout his career, notable from exploring a rumor about Troy Aikman’s sexuality in his book about the 1993 Dallas Cowboys to eventually giving extremely hot takes on TV shows such as First Take and Undisputed. He takes criticism from these takes and then collects a large paycheck and goes on with his life.
This take is unacceptable in the eyes of sports fans. On September 10th, Bayless and co-host Shannon Sharpe were discussing Dak Prescott’s comments about depression that he made during an interview with journalist Graham Bensinger. In the interview, Prescott and his brother Tad discussed their brother Jace, who passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 23rd. Tad and Dak detailed the pain that Jace went through when their mother, Peggy Prescott, passed away from cancer Nov. 13, 2013. At this time, Dak was in college and Jace was by their mother’s side during the whole time.
After their mother’s death, both Tad and Dak explained that Jace stumbled into a depression they didn’t even notice, which eventually led to him taking his own life. Dak mentioned in the interview that he had been feeling depressed during quarantine even before his brother’s unfortunate passing and that he was experiencing emotions he had never felt before.
Prescott has been praised by many for his willingness to speak up about such a difficult situation, including Sharpe, but Bayless gave a bizarre take on why this shows weakness and is not representative of what a quarterback for America’s team would say.
Bayless’ nonsensical tirade continued throughout the duration of the segment and he never backed down from his position. He did make it clear that his criticism was directed towards Prescott’s mentioning of his depression before his brother’s death. He defended his words by bringing this fact up again, a defense strategy that just reaffirms his ignorance for the validity of mental illness, especially when concerning a male professional athlete in a leadership position.
While Bayless may fight hard, he is truly wrong in his opinion on this issue. Prescott’s speaking out could be considered to be embracing the responsibility that a team leader should be taking. Mental health issues affect everyone in different ways, but can only be fixed through working things out and seeking help. Prescott saw his brother’s passing and did not want others to have to endure the pain and struggle that Jace dealt with and feel isolated from others as a result.
It is also important to note that Prescott is not outspoken off the field, or at least has not been in the past. He has notably declared that he will always stand for the national anthem, but in saying this still gave respect to those who do. He has consistently stayed out of controversy during his time with the Cowboys, and he has been criticized and also praised about this throughout his NFL career. He brought up this subject to get a message out, and the fact that he has chosen to speak out about an issue that is important to him and many others is a huge step for him. It is not a good look for Bayless and sports media as a whole that he is immediately criticized for taking this step.
However, we do gain one positive outcome from this situation. We are having a conversation. Sharpe and Bayless discussed how this probably wouldn’t have happened in the 1990s or earlier, and Bayless used this to justify his take. What Bayless is failing to recognize is that the football community has lost several players to depression and mental health issues in recent years and players like Prescott are trying to destigmatize this topic.
This conversation allows other players, fans, and citizens, in general, to feel okay about any feelings they have. Comments like Bayless’ are damaging and will only cause sports culture to become even more toxic.