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Outkick.com Sport Site Touting Coronavirus Lies

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 12:43 PM

Bringing crankery into sports coverage. Right up front you should know that the guy in charge is an ex-Faux Newser.


fter four and a half seemingly endless months, sports are finally returning, but not in a way that resembles anything seen before. The semi-permeable bubbles have been erected, and games are being broadcast from uncanny valley-like fan-free stadiums, even while COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country, thanks to the ongoing and utterly botched response by the federal government in its zeal to reopen.

In a vacuum, it makes perfect sense, then, that a website which ostensibly covers sports would bring a medical professional or scientist on board to unpack all the possible pitfalls and still-present obstacles.

Ideally this person would be well-versed in testing protocols or the potential for community spread, or even the ethics of a patently unessential workforce consuming desperately needed medical supplies. But OutKick.com, the 9-year-old website founded by Fox Sports personality Clay Travis, hasn’t enlisted the services of an epidemiologist, virologist, or medical ethicist. Instead, they hired Dr. David J. Chao, a disgraced former NFL team doctor with a wide array of alleged ethical violations—including a bevy of medical lawsuits and six-figure settlements, probations, accusations of “gross negligence,” and DUIs—dotting his résumé.

None of this information appears anywhere on OutKick—an editorial choice that is very much in line with the career pivot the orthopedic surgeon has undertaken since exiting the league. To a certain degree, Chao has already succeeded.

Since 2016 he’s built up a large, devoted following on Twitter of football fans eager for the snap injury diagnoses he offers while watching games on television. (OutKick called him an “internet sensation.”) The popularity of those posts led Chao to create a fantasy football subscription service, landed him a gig with SiriusXM as a medical analyst, and netted more than a few positive stories about his newfound prominence—most of which either downplayed his controversy-laden past or excised it altogether. All the sports injury articles Chao penned for the San Diego Union-Tribune used his Twitter handle “ProFootballDoc” as his byline and not his given name.

But OutKick makes for an ideal landing spot for a “quack,” as Deadspin described Chao over the course of its extensive reporting. After all, OutKick’s most notable activity since March has been providing a platform for Travis’ COVID-19 truthering (currently a growing cottage industry within media).

In addition to Chao, OutKick hired a bunch of new staffers this spring, and the result is exactly what you’d imagine a scaled-up, Travis-helmed enterprise would look like.

The site formerly known as Outkick the Coverage (it’s a football term) features very little original reporting, but is jam-packed with credulous regurgitations of whatever culture war flotsam is roiling the right, while various Fox News hosts, other far-right figures, and at least one white nationalist have received the kid-gloves treatment. Uncredited blog posts are not uncommon, and the day’s output is padded out with cheesecake photos and straight transcriptions of Travis’ Periscope rants. One recent (also uncredited) post consisted of nothing more than an NBA reporter “liking” and then “unliking” a political OutKick tweet. Another called LeBron James “clueless,” and literally told him to “shut up and dribble.”

All of this is accompanied by constant chest-beating about how OutKick is the only outlet brave enough to publish content that is largely indistinguishable from bog-standard conservative media fare. (Reached for comment, Travis specifically asked that a list of questions be sent by email. He posted those questions on OutKick early Saturday morning “so we get the site traffic instead,” he wrote. Travis’ responses can be read in full here.)

Plenty of details follow.
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