Baby Gronk’s ‘cringe’ Barstool Sports interview sparks conversation around ‘sharenting’ — when a parent uses their kid to go viral

There’s been a new viral video to come out of the “Baby Gronk” saga, but social media users are calling it “cringe” and “gross” instead of turning it into a meme.

Baby Gronk — whose real name is Madden San Miguel — has been on everyone’s For You Page after being dubbed a 10-year-old football prodigy. His nickname is inspired by the retired NFL player Rob Gronkowski, who is commonly referred to as “Gronk.” He and his father, Jake San Miguel, were doing unofficial college visits, when a video of Baby Gronk meeting the Louisiana State University gymnast and influencer Olivia Dunne went viral.

Miguel has been pretty candid with outlets about marketing his son. In an interview with The Athletic, he said, “Everything we do for content is on purpose. Everything is planned out.”

In the same interview, Miguel mentioned that he himself was a high school football star, but that he tore his ACL. He claims he has friends in the NFL and friends who coach in the Power 5. He alleged that Baby Gronk is making “about $100,000 a year” from social media promos and ads, which Miguel said he is setting aside for when his son is older.

“He has been trained and programmed since he was 6 years old,” he said of his son.

What started as a meme with Baby Gronk has evolved into something else. A clip from the father-son duo appearing on the Barstool Sports podcast “Bring the Juice” has had people questioning how far Miguel is willing to go to manage his son’s image.

During the interview, Miguel would periodically tell the hosts to ask the same question again and then tell Baby Gronk how to answer it.

“Are you ‘him,’ is the real question?” host Frank Dalena asked.

“Yes,” Baby Gronk replied.

“See, I’mma punch him in,” Miguel interrupted. “Ask that again, bro.” Then nudging his son, Miguel continued, “Say, ‘What kind of question is that? You’ve seen my Instagram.’ Say that.”

Baby Gronk’s Instagram has over 324,000 followers and has “RAN BY PARENT” in the bio.

When Dalena asked Baby Gronk if he’d take Dunne to prom, he didn’t answer and just made a face. Again, Miguel leaned into the microphone and said, “Say it again, bro.” Then to Baby Gronk, he instructed, “Say, ‘I already DMed her and asked her, and she said yes.'”

A clip of the podcast episode, which was shared on Twitter on June 13 and was viewed over 11 million times, had people calling it “cringe,” “wild,” “gross” and the “most awkward son/father interview I’ve ever seen.”

In another Barstool Sports podcast, “Bussin’ With The Boys,” which is cohosted by the former NFL linebacker Will Compton, Compton shared screenshots of the Baby Gronk account DMing the podcast account at the end of May, asking to be on the show. Compton declined, and the Baby Gronk account handled it graciously, but then followed up a few days later.

“I had read that article that he did with TMZ, New York Post or The Athletic and just it, it’s just like: Yo, this dude is f****** delusional,” Compton said, referring to Miguel. “He’s one of those delusional fathers living through his kid.”

The idea of “sharenting,” or a parent shaping a child’s internet identity, was coined in 2017 in a legal analysis of a parent’s right to post online versus a child’s right to privacy. Miguel is not by any means the first to “sharent” his child — even if he claims, as he did to The Athletic, that he’s doing it for his kids so “they can have a future.”

Lindsey Cooley, a clinical child psychologist, told NBC News that there’s a major difference between being raised as a child actor as opposed to a source of content for parents. In the latter, the child can grow up not knowing when to stop “performing.” According to her, influencer kids are “conditioned to know that when the phone is out, they should be behaving a certain way.”

This is especially true for children who know their online persona provides financial stability for the family. And it’s not just child psychologists who would be concerned about the level of sharenting Baby Gronk is experiencing. Even professional football players are drawing the line.

The former NFL defensive player JJ Watt said in response to The Athletic profile on Baby Gronk, “Kids should be allowed to be kids.”

“I’m not against advanced leagues, better competition, etc.,” he tweeted on June 9. “But no kid should be playing one sport all year & no kid should be training ‘like a pro’ until at least HS. They’re kids.”

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