Skip Bayless Says Comments Calling Dak Prescott Weak for Depression Were 'Misconstrued'
Famed Fox Sports commentator Skip Bayless was criticized this week when he called Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s battle with depression a sign of weakness.
On Wednesday, Dak and Tad Prescott appeared on In Depth with Graham Bensinger to discuss their brother, Jace, who died by suicide in April. During the interview, the siblings explained that Jace had a difficult time caring for their mother during her battle with colon cancer, and didn't open himself up to others following her death in 2013.
For the first time, Dak publicly announced he had been experiencing anxiety and depression around the time of Jace's death from suicide, which was exacerbated by the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression," Dak said during the interview. "And to the point of, I didn’t want to work out anymore. I didn’t know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all.”
The 27-year-old NFL star said he had learned from the experience, and encouraged others to share their feelings with loved ones.
During a Thursday appearance on FS1's Undisputed, Bayless addressed Dak's candidness about his mental health, saying the competitive nature of the NFL would affect how his teammates viewed him as a leader.
"Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy with him going public that ‘I got depressed. I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out,' " Bayless said. "Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team. You know and I know, this sport that you play, it is dog eat dog. It is no compassion. No quarter given on the football field."
"If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team’s ability to believe in you in the toughest spots and it definitely could encourage others on the other side to come after you," he continued.
The comments were quickly condemned by sports fans and athletes on Twitter.
Fox Sports — which did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment — later released a statement that distanced themselves from Bayless' comments but did not specify whether he would face disciplinary action.
"No matter the cause of the struggle, FOX Sports believes Dak Showed tremendous courage which is evident in both his leadership on the Dallas Cowboys and his character off the field," they said, in part. "We do not agree with Skip Bayless' opinion on Undisputed this morning."
On Friday morning, Bayless was back on the show, where he said his comments were "misconstrued."
“I want to reiterate some points I made about Dak Prescott and the depression he discussed,” he explained. “As I strongly stated, I have great compassion for anyone suffering from clinical depression, which is very real. If you are suffering from any form of depression, please seek help.”
He continued, "The only Dak depression I discussed on the show was from an interview he taped with Graham Bensinger. Dak said that depression hit soon after the pandemic hit, right after the quarantine. I said [Thursday] that if Dak needed help for pandemic depression, he should have sought it then."
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On Thursday, Dak told reporters that despite Bayless' criticism, he believed he would be doing a disservice to his teammates if he wasn't open about his mental health.
"I think being a leader is about being genuine and being real," he said. "If I wouldn't have talked about those things to the people I did I wouldn't realize that I, my friends and a lot more people go through them, and they are as common as they are. I don't think for one-second leaders are not, and no matter how big of a person you are, if you're not mentally healthy. ... If you're not thinking the right way then you're not going to be able to lead people the right way.
"So, before I can lead, I got to make sure my mind's in the right place to do that, and lead people to where they want to me," Dak continued. "I think it's important to be vulnerable, to be genuine, to be transparent. I think that goes a long way when you're a leader and when your voice is being heard by so many, and you can inspire."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org