Dear Pat McAfee: Apologize -- no, really apologize -- and move on
He tweeted out something really inappropriate and dumb about sexual predator Larry Nassar, and now he's doubling down. Bad, bad move.
I like Pat McAfee.
I was there at the start of his rise as a media star, having done goofy (but funny) streaming IndyStar web shows from Kilroy’s in Broad Ripple. I was there when he made his standup comedy debut as part of my friend’s Celebrity Standup show at Cracker’s. We’ve talked, on and off the record, hundreds of times, and I’ve unfailingly found him smart, funny, insightful, self-aware and funny as hell.
While I thought he was a little crazy for retiring from football and initially joining Barstool – maybe that was my animus for Barstool showing – it was clear he had it, that gift that very few performers and media types possess. His rise to ESPN fame does not surprise me, not in the least, and I am genuinely happy for him and his young family. He bet on himself and won, won big. Good for him.
I’m angry at him (like he freaking cares, right?)
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I’m mad at him for the same reason so many others are mad at him: After his show partner, Evan Fox, tweeted out a picture of some particularly garish Michigan State football uniforms, McAfee responded on Twitter (or X or whatever the hell we’re calling it now) with “I think (Larry) Nassar was in on the design team actually.”
I don’t think I have to tell you: Not only wasn’t it funny – I mean, it was several miles from being funny – but it was highly inappropriate. You don’t make Hitler jokes (unless you’re Mel Brooks, who’s a comedic genius) and you don’t make jokes about men who sexually abused young ladies for years and is going to rot and die in jail for his crimes. Worst yet, it doesn’t even make sense, right?
If it had ended there, if McAfee had fallen on his sword and apologized and deleted the dumb tweet, it would have been forgotten and forgiven in a matter of minutes. Nobody’s looking to cancel or diminish him here. Just do what most humans do – apologize – and mean it from the heart. Look, he’s a married man; if he hasn’t learned how to apologize by now, heaven help him. After 33 years of marriage, I’m a Phi Beta Kappa in apologizing.
When he took his swim in the Broad Ripple Canal, he did the right thing; he apologized to everybody – the team, the city, everybody – and we all moved on. It became part of his comedy bits. He sold T-shirts emblazoned with “Pat McAfee Swim Club.” He handled it as perfectly as a mishap can be handled, and it marked a true turning point in his life as he redoubled his philanthropic efforts and pursued his media dreams.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear he learned from that experience, and I’m surprised and I’m disappointed.
Here he was on his show earlier this week:
“Hey, listen, I don’t want to say it because there is, you know, an all-out onslaught against me right now for simply linking one terrible thing from a school with the most terrible thing from a school to a friend in a reply tweet, talking shit to a friend.”
“And I do apologize if some people took that in a different way and spun it in their own narrative to other people and kind of did their own thing. I was simply talking shit to a friend. But it does feel like Michigan State alums are trying to silence the media whenever they acknowledge that Larry Nassar, one of the most horrible humans ever, of all time, he was at Michigan State 14 years? So that’s not really a part of the story, that they kind of created and empowered him?”
“So, like, it that’s going to get us canceled, whoa. Whoa. It’s going to get loud.”
Sounds like the kind of apology/non-apology we might have heard from a former U.S. president. If you were offended, I’m sorry. Please, Pat. You’re better than that. Or so I’ve long believed.
Yeah, it’s different now at ESPN. This isn’t Barstool or a YouTube show. Now, all ears and eyes are focused on you after signing a mega-million-dollar contract to join the Worldwide Leader. There are a lot of angry people who got let go by ESPN at precisely the same time you got paid handsomely to join the network. You’re working for Disney now, the same folks who tried to make Jemele Hill disappear for speaking the ugly truth about Donald Trump.
I can understand how McAfee might feel be a bit defensive at this point. He doesn’t need to apologize for being wildly successful and earning the huge paycheck from ESPN, but he’s taken a lot of unfair criticism in recent weeks/months since joining Disney. He’s a needle mover, and needle movers get paid.
This, though, was beyond the pale.
The dumb tweet was bad.
The rationale and the “apology” were even worse.
Again, not calling for him to be stifled or silenced or – that word again – cancelled. He is a massive talent who took things right to the line, and for one of the few times in his media career, he went way over the line.
Just. Freaking. Apologize.
And I mean a real apology. Not one of these half-assed non-apology apologies. We all make mistakes. Like swimming in the Canal. Say you’re sorry and move on.