Daily News columnist slams Derek Jeter for not being Muhammad Ali

Associated Press

The news cycle today basically mandates that, in addition to the actual news, we have reactions, reactions to the reactions and then hot takes sprinkled all over. It is, as they say, what it is. Some of those takes are less reasonable than others, however, and I think we’ve found the new leader for silliness in the takes/countertakes following the death of Muhammad Ali.

The take: slamming Derek Jeter for not being Ali. Really. That comes from Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, who uses Jeter’s remembrance of Ali from the Player’s Tribune as a basis for taking Jeter down a few pegs:

Jeter made a career of never choosing to truly impact the world. Yet there he was on Saturday, praising Ali for teaching him just that . . . Never had such eloquent words of Jeter’s PR flaks rung quite this hollow, the most inauthentic athlete of our time celebrating the most genuine . . . [Jeter] made a career out of not speaking his mind, unless Gatorade or Rawlings or the Steiner Sports memorabilia machine were paying him to speak on their behalf.

At the outset, I hope we can agree that the slamming of Jeter for chasing endorsements is pretty chuckle-worthy. At the very least it reveals that Samuel is too young to remember Ali doing commercials for roach spray and hash browns and stuff. Or making some coin for being a guest referee at Wrestlemania. Indeed, if you’re under 40 you probably saw Ali doing these things before you ever saw footage of him from the Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manila. Which isn’t to slam either Ali or Jeter for doing commercials. Get paid if you want and need to, endorse whatever your conscience abides.

The larger issue is Samuel fundamentally misunderstanding Muhammad Ali. There’s a great article over at Fox today by Ali biographer David Kindred. In it Kindred recalls a quote Ali gave in 1964, right after he won the title for the first time and, more significantly, right after he went public with his relationship with The Nation of Islam, changing his name to Cassius X and, later, Muhammad Ali. The press was roasting him. Ali’s response:

Finally, exasperated by the reporters’ insistence that something was wrong, Clay said, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be who I want.”

Ali most definitely spoke out for what he believed in and most definitely took political and social stands. Obviously, Derek Jeter has not. Samuel rakes him over the coals for it. But Jeter has his reasons and they are his own. Maybe they’re reasons Samuel, you or I might not find noble or inspirational. Maybe it’s to protect his image or his ad dollars. Maybe it’s because Jeter doesn’t feel comfortable entering that arena for reasons totally separate from that. It doesn’t really matter. Derek Jeter does not have to be what the New York Freakin’ Daily News wants him to be. Or what you or I want him to be. He is free to be who he wants to be. Every athlete and celebrity is, just as every private person is. Despite the fact that we expect so much of athletes and celebrities.

I don’t expect the Daily News to appreciate that, as it thrives on heroes/villains narratives. But maybe for one second someone over at that joint can appreciate the inherent ridiculousness of a column which uses the passing of a man who was literally called “The Greatest,” and universally praised as such in order to say “that guy over there? He wasn’t so great.”


Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.