Jason Lee Whitlock, 47, was born in Warren Township in East Indianapolis. He was drawn to sports at a young age, primarily basketball, attending American Basketball Association games with his father and later falling in love with the Indiana Pacers.
Whitlock also displayed his own athletic prowess. In addition to running track, he played basketball and was an all-state offensive lineman on his high school football team. He began reading newspapers at a young age, discovering and savoring columnists Mike Royko and Ralph Wiley.
Whitlock entered Ball State University as an accounting major and a scholarship athlete. Much of his time was spent on the football field as an offensive lineman, and he lettered two years.
He decided to forgo his final year of athletic eligibility in order to write for the student newspaper, The Ball State Daily News, covering everything from field hockey to football. Early on, Whitlock used his insights he had gained from his playing experience to his advantage.
After brief stints at The Herald-Times and The Charlotte Observer, Whitlock traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1992 and began covering the University of Michigan basketball team. His coverage of the “Fab Five” drew national attention, and shortly thereafter, Whitlock was hired by The Kansas City Star.
It was at The Star as a sports columnist that Whitlock began to formulate his credo as a writer. He became known for his controversial writing style that seamlessly integrated sports and culture, awakening readers to what he saw as injustices or untruths in the sporting world.
Discussion revolving around his columns took him to appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other television programs. While at The Star, he wrote for ESPN.com’s Page 2 beginning in 2002, and was a frequent contributor to several ESPN shows, including Jim Rome is Burning, Pardon the Interruption, and The Sports Reporters.
He left ESPN in less-than-amicable fashion in 2006 to write an online column for AOL Sports and to contribute to Fox Sports.
Whitlock has since returned to ESPN and continues to write columns and appear on many of ESPN’s daily sports talk shows.
In the near future he will head an ESPN site featuring young African-American writers.
Throughout his career, Whitlock has written about everything from field hockey to mass incarceration, never failing to question society or look past the box scores for deeper issues.
Many recognize his name in conjunction with his column regarding Don Imus’ controversial comments in 2007. He prides himself on making the comfortable people uncomfortable and writing unpredictable pieces in the process.
Whitlock has found his niche in the sports writing world in the overlap of sports and culture, particularly surrounding African Americans.
His columns provoke discussion, and he has been described as “fundamentally unafraid” by colleague and friend Dan Le Batard, a columnist for The Miami Herald and an ESPN host. Additionally, he is a recipient of the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award — the first sportswriter to win the award.
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