Wait, Jay Cutler has Type 2 Diabetes Now?

Stephen A. Smith confuses Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes while trashing Cutler on ESPN.



Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been criticized for many things throughout his playing career, from his attitude to his on-field decision-making. This preseason, an ESPN commentator has found a new spin in negative Cutler commentary – by diagnosing Cutler with a condition he doesn’t have.

Stephen A. Smith, an ESPN commentator known for bombast, was in the midst of a televised rant against Cutler when he incorrectly said that Cutler had Type 2 diabetes. It was part of an unfortunate passage full of insensitivity towards people with diabetes. Here’s the quote, as best we could make out:

“And I understand that there will be people out there that will say, I know, ‘the Type 2 diabetes’ (inaudible). The way I look at it, we live in an advanced society, where there’s medicine everywhere to help you out. I think it goes a bit deeper for Jay Cutler than just that.”

Wow. Just wow.

Let’s unpack that a bit. It’s not enough that Smith doesn’t know the difference between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes; he goes further and says that there’s medicine simply EVERYWHERE and people just have to take it. Why isn’t Cutler taking his medicine? It’s so easy!

(You can watch the entire clip here.)

Smith is known for being a jackass, especially about sensitive issues. This tirade is notable, however, because it actually discusses Cutler’s diabetes as “a little bit” of a factor for his poor performance. This breaks a puzzling silence among major sports commentators who seemed not to discuss whether Cutler’s blood sugar levels might present unique challenges to his athletic performance.

This is a legitimate discussion to have; people with diabetes may be able to do anything athletically, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes trickier than it would be for the average person. Cutler may be playing poorly because he has a bad attitude, be one of the many who can’t be successful in the NFL, or be having trouble with his blood sugar management – all are worth discussing, at least respectfully. Unfortunately, Smith’s garbled commentary, devoid of even one accurate fact about Type 1 diabetes, only further clouds the discussion.

Cutler has left himself extremely open to criticism, both legitimate and illegitimate. After signing a contract extension worth a guaranteed $54 million in 2014, his team has suffered two losing seasons, and he was benched in 2014 at one point for poor play. The media and some fellow players have not been able to embrace his attitude, as he can often appear sullen or detached.

That being said, Cutler still has believers in his corner. He performed much better in 2015, despite being tasked to lead a team decimated by injuries; for his play, Cutler was named the team’s MVP by its official website. Defenders also note that he has played under a succession of coaches and different offensive schemes, making it difficult for him to succeed. Some even feel that the Bears are a sleeper pick for success in 2016.

I have to say, sadly, that I have heard this kind of “this is the year” talk before about Cutler and the Bears, and it hasn’t yet worked out. Hope springs eternal.

For his part, don’t expect Cutler to come out and trash-talk Smith back for his diabetes gaffe. Cutler is private about his diabetes, and he usually keeps negative media attention at arm’s length. The most sports writers might be able to get out of Cutler is some dry wit similar to what he said when he heard that a former receiver trashed him for not throwing the ball enough to open receivers: “I could say something clever and smart, but I’ll just pass.”

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.