The iPod is in the dustbin of history, but podcasts — the on-demand audio shows the devices spawned — are big business. Case in point: Shaquille O’Neal, an NBA legend turned media mogul, launched his own podcast this month, The Big Podcast With Shaq.
In many ways, the podcast demonstrates Shaq’s media savvy, which has enabled him to remain one of the highest paid basketball players years after his retirement. Shaq successfully exploits the podcast form. He’s confessional (Shaq used to deflate the basketball before games!), direct (Yes, Shaq threatened to murder Kobe!) and sometimes funny. Endearingly, you can hear Shaq, who earns over $20 million a year on endorsements, awkwardly read the advertisements for Square Space and Survey Monkey — just like the other podcast hosts who haven’t won four NBA championships.
But the podcast, which Shaq co-hosts with veteran radio personality John Kincade, also consistently features a distasteful undercurrent of misogyny. The worst example was a bit from the second episode, during which Kincaid brings in three “very attractive ladies” to weigh in on Shaq’s feet, which have apparently been mangled from years of 82-game seasons.
KINCADE: How can Shaq take better care of his feet? So we’re going to ask Shannon, and Ashley, and Jasmine… Very attractive ladies…
KINCADE: ….from our staff here at the Shaq Cave.
O’NEAL: Too attractive.
KINCADE: They’re very, very attractive.
O’NEAL: Gonna get me in trouble.
KINCADE: Now, wait a minute.
O’NEAL: [dramatic voice] “Shaq gets stabbed at his second podcast.”
KINCADE: Let’s just say, I’ve already met the lady who gives the marching orders earlier today and I ain’t messing with her. Alright, so, we’re gonna ask… we’ve gotta figure out how you can take better care of your feet. Now the ladies have all inspected the video, right? Of the feet. Shannon, lovely Shannon, have you… you’ve inspected the feet?
SHANNON: I’ve seen the video, I think there probably should have been some kind of disclaimer, before you posted that out. Like, you know, “graphic images,” or something to warn people.
O’NEAL: My feet are not that bad! Come on, Shannon.
KINCADE: Now let me ask, Jasmine, let me ask you, you know, you meet the guy — this charming guy, maybe buys you a cocktail at the bar. You’re having some great conversation and everything, and then later on some time in the night, he takes the feet off — he takes the shoes off — he doesn’t take his feet off —
O’NEAL: She’s gonna love it. You know why?
KINCADE: Why’s that?
O’NEAL: Because when I meet her, I’m gonna say, “excuse me, did it hurt?” “Did what hurt?” “When you fell from heaven. You’re a goddess.” You see, she’s gonna love me at that point. So my ugly feet will not be affected. ..I know you liked that, Rob. Write it down, Rob.
This is the only time any women have spoken in the first three episodes of the podcast.
In the third episode, Shaq discusses Hope Solo, a member of the U.S. Women’s World Cup team:
PRODUCER: so the Jump Ball is, we will pay attention and watch it when it’s on, or not really on my radar at all.
O’NEAL: We’re gonna pay attention because, you know, a lot of people feel she shouldn’t be there, so I think it’s going to elevate her game. I’m gonna say she’s gonna score… how many games do they play? 1, 2, 3? Okay.
PRODUCER: She’s a goalie, so she doesn’t score, by the way.
O’NEAL: Oh, you see, I didn’t even know that.
PRODUCER: [Laughs] How many is she going to score, Shaq?
O’NEAL: Okay, I admit I don’t watch the soccer, but I know she’s hot, and… okay, look. I’ll tell you what, I know no one’s gonna score on her. How about that?
PRODUCER: Do you care about the Women’s World Cup, John?
KINCADE: No! No! Not if it was being played in my back yard! … I would pull the wood shutters.
These comments walk the line between casual misogyny and outright sexism, occasionally teetering to the left or falling dramatically to the right. Casual sexism has been a quiet Achilles heel throughout Shaq’s diverse career, mostly manifesting itself in the occasional careless interview comment or obnoxious pun.
This trend has been evident as far back as 2002, when O’Neal referred to the Sacramento Kings, of which he is now a minority owner, as the “Queens” early in the season. Two years later, he was at it again, this time referring to then-New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank as “Laura” during an ABC Sports interview following a Heats vs. Nets game.
This is not to say that Shaq is a bad guy, nor that he’s produced an overall bad podcast. O’Neal has long been recognized as one of the most personable players in the game and is known for his significant philanthropy with the Boys & Girls Club of America and his annual Shaq-A-Claus Christmas project in conjunction with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
The Big Podcast with Shaq is humorous, relatable, and relatively interesting. But the misogyny of the first three episodes is a stain on one of iTunes’ most popular new programs.
Katelyn Harrop is an intern with ThinkProgress