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Clay Travis is a Preening Jackass

His frat boy schlock routine has been poisoning the Internet and ruining segments on the Chris Vernon Show for years, so what's new? People are beginning to wonder if he's more than just a hater.

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When I moved to Nashville in 2009, I have to admit that I really liked Clay Travis. The first time I ever heard him on the radio, he was doing a segment with a professional gambler and they were breaking down the lines on that week's SEC games. It was terrific radio. Clay was right in his wheelhouse, and his confrontational style and defiant SEC-homerism won me over immediately (it was a breath of fresh air after spending the last decade in ACC country).

To Clay's credit, the original Three Hour Lunch show was awesome. Along with Blaine Bishop and Brent Dougherty, he developed one of the most successful and popular local radio shows in the country. It was a big deal around here, too; my friends and I would talk about it at the bar or text each other to turn it on because Clay was on another crazy rant. It was one of those things that really took hold in the community.

Today, I can't listen to Weezer's The Blue Album because I heard the abomination that was Raditude. Once Raditude happened, I had to question whether the people associated with Raditude were, in fact, capable of producing something great. Now I kind of think The Blue Album sucks. I tell you this because sometimes it takes something as horrible as Raditude to put things in context, and Clay Travis wasn't widely regarded as a preening jackass in Nashville five years ago today when he tweeted this:

Back then, I probably saw it and ignored it, or if I didn't, I chalked it up to "Clay being Clay". I certainly didn't remember it until Boogie called him out in the most awesome way imaginable this morning, but I can tell you that I continued to be a fan of Clay's for quite a while after he wrote it. Today, there's a starkly different prism through which that tweet must be viewed. Now, we need to think about the fact that it was written by the same guy who earlier this week dropped his own Raditude, publishing arguably the most abominable article to date about the trial that led to the the rape convictions of two former Vanderbilt football players. I'll get to why in a minute, but I'd be remiss if I didn't let Memphis Business Journal's Greg Akers get in the first shot.

I'm not going to link to the article because it's so repulsive and it doesn't deserve whatever piddling number of pageviews this story might convey. But in it, Clay proceeds to empathize with the rapists, completely neglect the victim, celebrate his own celebrity, and reveal sealed evidence that a judge would not allow the jury to see. The evidence he reveals is a racially charged comment allegedly made by one of the rapists (who is black) to the victim (who is white). "The most egregious and explosive accusation against Batey has never been made public until now," Clay shouted before the big reveal.

Like a lot of things Clay says, this was a factually incorrect statement. The most explosive accusation against Batey was not that he said something racially divisive, IT'S THAT HE AND HIS FOOTBALL BUDDIES GANGRAPED A YOUNG WOMAN WHO WAS UNCONSCIOUS AND VIDEOTAPED IT SO THEY COULD SHOW ALL OF THEIR FRIENDS. Look, the comment wasn't good, and if it came out at trial it might have made some news in the right-wing underbelly of the internet, but sticks and stones, dude. Have some perspective. You just watched a video of Batey raping an unconscious young woman and this is what you think is important? WHAT'S IMPORTANT IS THAT HE'S A RAPIST.

For those inclined to give Clay the benefit of the doubt, we probably need to do some additional contextualizing. The Vandy article would seem to indicate that Clay has some pretty troubling views on rape and race. Well, his views on rape have been troublesome for a while:

Ditto his views on race:

Which brings us back to Boogie. There were times on the radio where it was clear that Clay deliberately played the heel in order to get a rise out of his listeners. Like Skip Bayless and #hottakers the world over, Clay relishes in pissing people off, and likely wrote what he did about Boogie under the auspices of trying to increase the collective blood pressure of Wildcats fans. But knowing what we know now, is there any reasonable way to conclude that tweeting something so hateful at an 18-year-old black kid wasn't at least in part a reflection of his own views?

It's not really my place as a straight, white male living comfortably in Nashville to label a person as racist or misogynist, and I don't think it's particularly useful to portray others in such binary terms. Clay Travis is a very popular writer who's really good at SEO and enraging Alabamans, but the more I read his stuff, the more I think he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the world right now. One of his favorite comebacks to those who charge him with advancing a political agenda is that he doesn't care about politics or lean one way or the other. It's a little bit like when Stephen Colbert claims not to see race, except that Clay says it unironically. I'm not saying that people can't be politically agnostic, but even if you don't identify with a political party, you have to be pretty apathetic to claim you don't lean one way or the other on political issues. That's the thing, though, I don't think Clay has ever thought about political issues before. He doesn't understand why the things he says are bad.

For those of us who've moved on from being Clay Travis media consumers, as most of the people I know have, there's usually a moment you can pinpoint where you just said enough. (For the record, most of the people I know are early-30s white dudes with good jobs who graduated from SEC schools, aka "The Clay Travis Demographic".) An informal poll of my friends showed that most people got off the Clay train either after he guaranteed that Peyton Manning would be joining the Titans or after he guaranteed that Jon Gruden would be the next coach the University of Tennessee Volunteers. For me, it was after hearing his full-throated defense of then-Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin's policy of hiring assistants based on their wives' physical appearances. Look, I'm not a prude; I was in a fraternity, and I get that Franklin was making a joke - a tasteless, unfunny joke - that probably played pretty well on the radio. Franklin eventually apologized, but Clay turned this comment into some kind of perverted philosophical worldview. Confidence leads to success which leads to money which leads to HOT CHICKS and HOT CHICKS are the ONLY true MEASURE OF A MAN. This was some Tom-Cruise-in-Magnolia-level BS, and the Memphis Twitterverse, thankfully, was having none of it.

I started listening to Chris Vernon's podcast instead of the 3HL after hearing that segment with Clay. I LOVE Chris Vernon's show. Having that crazy, ridiculous show is one of the great joys of hardcore Grizzlies fandom, and the job that those guys do every day is nothing short of remarkable. That said, those Clay Travis segments are the worst. It's like they slid a Montell Jordan song onto the new D'Angelo album. It doesn't fit with the rest of the show, and since Herrington's tweet, I've been annoyed that Clay even has an avenue into the Memphis sports world. He doesn't deserve it, and I hope that someone over there sees what Clay's been writing and tweeting this week and decides that Monday afternoons should have a regular segment devoted to Bill Simmons rambling about how awesome Jeff Green is instead.