A Fox Sports commentator sparked outrage on Thursday and was condemned by his own network after he criticised an NFL player for publicly discussing a recent battle with depression.
Dak Prescott, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, said in a television interview that the emotional burden of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the death of one of his brothers by suicide, had led him to seek help from family and the team.
Commentator Skip Bayless said on his show Undisputed: “I don’t have sympathy for him going public with, ‘I got depressed’ and ‘I suffered depression early in Covid to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team.”’
Mr Bayless said that Mr Prescott should have kept his struggles private or shared with only a limited group of people because of his role as an NFL starting quarterback. He has since tried to walk back the comments.
Shannon Sharpe, his co-host, quickly rebuked him for his remarks.
The network admonished Mr Bayless and said that it does “not agree” with his comments.
Fox Sports said in its statement that Mr Prescott showed courage in revealing his struggles with depression and mental health.
“We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at Fox Sports and our audience,” the statement said.
On Friday, Mr Bayless defended his comments on his show claiming they had been “misconstrued by many”.
“The only Dak depression I addressed on yesterday’s show was from an interview he taped with Graham Bensinger. Dak said that depression happened soon after the pandemic hit, early in the quarantine. I said yesterday, that if Dak needed help for pandemic depression, he should have sought counselling then.”
Mr Bayless urged those fighting depression to seek help and the contact information for the national suicide prevention hotline was displayed on screen.
“As I strongly stated [on Thursday], I have great compassion for anyone suffering clinical depression, which is very real,” Mr Bayless said.
Social media continued to condemn Mr Bayless noting his comments did not include an apology. Others lauded the courage shown by Mr Prescott for sharing his struggle at a time when mental health is of great concern for so many.
Mr Bayless joined Fox from ESPN in 2016. His four-year, $25 million contract expires later this month.
With reporting from The Associated Press
For confidential support in the UK, call Samaritans on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
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