NFL star Dak Prescott responds to comments by Skip Bayless about his mental health

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback responded to criticism by the Fox Sports 1 sports pundit that he was showing "weakness" by sharing his mental health struggles.
/ Source: TODAY

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has responded to comments about him showing "weakness" because he publicly shared his mental health struggles, saying it's "important to be vulnerable" as a leader.

Prescott's response came after Fox Sports 1 pundit Skip Bayless drew a backlash on Thursday for his criticism of Prescott on the show "Undisputed."

Prescott revealed in a podcast this week that he struggled with depression in the wake of his brother's suicide in April.

Prescott, 27, told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he would be "a fake leader" if he didn't discuss his struggles with 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 fiends 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. 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."

His comments came after Bayless criticized Prescott for speaking about his mental health issues.

"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 on the show. "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."

Fox Sports issued a statement saying it disagrees with Bayless' comments, but did not specify if it resulted in any disciplinary action toward Bayless.

"At Fox Sports, we are proud of Dak Prescott for publicly revealing his struggle with depression and mental health,” said the statement. "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 in his character off the field. We do not agree with Skip Bayless’ opinion on Undisputed this morning. We have addressed the significance of this matter with Skip and how his insensitive comments were received by people internally at Fox Sports and our audience."

Prescott's brother, Tad, also responded to the comments by Bayless.

"Thank you so much to so many for your continued support of @dak and myself," he tweeted. "I have no words on the comments made by @RealSkipBayless I don’t know the man but the fact so many athletes have publicly shared their dislike for him says it all."

Bayless was referring to comments Prescott made on the "In Depth with Graham Bensinger" podcast released on Wednesday in which Prescott revealed that the cause of his brother Jace Prescott's death at 31 in April was suicide. Bayless' comments particularly struck a nerve because Thursday was World Suicide Prevention Day.

Prescott said on the podcast that he was struggling with anxiety and depression during the pandemic when his father told him about his brother's death.

"He had a lot of burdens on him,” Prescott said. “He had a lot of tough things, and my sense of saying that is it showed me how vulnerable we have to be as humans, how open we have to be.

“Because our adversities, our struggles, what we go through is always gonna be too much for ourselves and maybe too much for even one or two people, but never too much for a community or too much for people in the family that you love. So you have to share these things.”