Sports radio host Clay Travis visited the White House on Tuesday, the latest stop in his rise as a political sports celebrity.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Travis revealed that he had scheduled a meeting with SEC football fans in the West Wing, including White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Later, Travis shared a photo from the West Wing on Twitter.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 5, 2017
“Whether you’re the White House spokesperson or anyone else from the SEC footprint there’s a good chance you’re going to have an opinion about me or about the teams there,” Travis said.
Travis did not meet President Donald Trump but talked at length with Breitbart News about what he would say.
“I think a lot of the stuff that Donald Trump has tweeted about sports, I would agree with,” Travis said, pointing out that Colin Kaepernick’s protest was hurting the NFL and that ESPN was losing viewers because of their liberal politics.
Travis and his show Outkick the Coverage are exploding in the Trump era, with what remains of sports media after the powerful collision of politics and sports. That new media profile led him to spend a few days in Washington, DC, for work.
Sitting on the couch of the Calvin Coolidge suite at the Willard, Travis looked out of the windows of his hotel at the historic skyline of Washington, D.C. Travis says he fully supports Trump’s position on Civil War monuments.
“I’m a history guy, so the tearing down monuments and things like that, I’m a billion percent with Donald Trump,” he says, citing historical figures in the United States including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee.
“I consider all those people to be idols of mine,” he said. “To me it’s crazy, you can’t apply modern-day historical perspectives onto historical figures.”
Travis began the day hosting his show in the SiriusXM building in Washington and attended arguments for the Supreme Court case on sports gambling. He described the court’s proceedings as “awesome” and said that he was closely following the ruling as it would have a major impact on the future of sports media.
“I just think it’s cool, I’m a huge history buff,” he said.
Travis is not a Trump supporter but agrees with a lot of what the president has to say. His audience does, too, including fans in Washington who met with Travis for a special VIP event at the Trump hotel in the old Post Office building.
Most of the country first learned about Travis after a raucous CNN panel where an outraged Brooke Baldwin shut down his segment after he said that he believed only in the “First Amendment and boobs.”
His audience exploded. Travis added 50,000 followers on Twitter in just four days after the controversial segment, and millions more started tuning in to his Outkick media platform. That figure includes streaming video, podcasts, his website, and his radio show.
“Best advertisement ever,” he said shortly after the incident.
He also appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to discuss the story he broke about ESPN pulling Asian college football announcer Robert Lee from a UVA game to avoid controversy.
Travis is familiar with Washington, after attending college at George Washington University before going to graduate school for law.
His trip to Washington included some meetings to discuss the possibility of running for Senate in Tennessee as an independent candidate. Travis says he’s considering a political run, but as a rising political/sports entertainer, stoking rumors of a political run almost seems to be part of the job.
Why would he run? His voice has never been as powerful as it is now with his expanding audience. As a fan of University of Tennessee football, Travis brought his passion to a disagreement he had with a coaching hire leading to the college canceling the deal.
Travis appears comfortable with the new whirlwind of sports and politics. He admits that like most people, he spent most of the eight years of the Obama presidency keeping his political opinions to himself. But once the sports commentary business became political, he did not hesitate to dive into the political arena.
“I love the fight … I’m like Brer Rabbit getting thrown in the briar patch, I’m like a pig in the mud,” he said. “I genuinely enjoy the intellectual squabble on a day to day basis fighting for ideas you believe in.”
In conversation, Travis has the same monotone, driving voice that fuels his show, driving his points home with carefully thought-out opinions on the latest issues. Once a lawyer, Travis speaks like he is in court in the jury of public opinion.
“I decide what I believe, and then I just say it, and I don’t have a filter and so what I found was not having a filter was becoming increasingly beneficial because people want authenticity,” he explained about his style.
He welcomes the politicization of sports but thinks there should be more balance, pointing to the media empires that are rapidly moving to the left at the behest of a loud minority.
“My position is not that politics should not be involved in sports, its that one side of politics should not dominate,” he said.
He pointed to the Colin Kaepernick story as an example of how the balance had been thrown off by the left in sports media.
Instead of having an honest discussion about the effectiveness of the protest and the negative effect that it had on the NFL, he found that major sports media figures spent their time talking about how heroic the former quarterback was.
“If you’re going to allow the politicization of sports to occur, then to me you have to take the next step and allow people to say that he’s full of shit,” Travis said about Kaepernick. “I think people should be able to say that and I do all the time.”
He appeared confident his opinion about Kaepernick was shared by a lot of Americans, who were frequently boxed out of the discussion due to work and social sensitivities.
“I don’t think that’s a crazy right-wing opinion,” he said. “I think that’s just a reasonable opinion that a sports fan can have and I don’t think that ESPN is just alienating conservatives, I think they are alienating very middle of the road people.”
Travis said that on Thanksgiving, he put on the NFL Lions game and that his father-in-law, an avid sports fan from Detroit, admitted that he hadn’t watched an NFL game all year because he was annoyed by the player protests. That experience brought home the realization that the callers on his radio show were serious about their frustrations with the league.
Right now, he appears surprised that he is one of the few media personalities who has figured it out.
“I still have the same political beliefs that I’ve always had, the country has just gone crazy,” Travis says.
Travis says he voted for Gary Johnson in the presidential election and voted for President Obama twice.
In college, he remembers feeling devastated by former Tennessee Senator Al Gore losing, after taking celebratory Jello shots with his friends on Election night. He recalled being a fan of President Bill Clinton despite the scandals and working for Tennessee Democrats in Congress.
Growing up in Nashville, he explains that he always had a blend of people around him with different political beliefs, something that his colleagues in a New York, Los Angeles, or DC media market might not have.
He dismisses people call him a racist, sexist, xenophobe, alt-right white supremacist when he considers himself a moderate, or — as he has a coined it — a “radical moderate.”
“I think the sports media has gone so far left that a middle of the road guy like me seems like a right-wing zealot,” he said.