A few years ago, a sports bro at an all-sports radio station in Boston compared an escaped gorilla at a local zoo to an inner city student bussed to a school in the suburbs.
He still works there. He’s had “sensitivity training” because that sort of thing plays big in one of the most racist cities in America and in one of the most vile neighborhoods on the radio dial — sportstalk radio.
That radio station is scrapping all of its live programming on Friday, it announced on Wednesday. All of its employees will be busy attending sensitivity training.
It comes after Tom Brady threatened to walk from his interview arrangement with WEEI after a host called his daughter “an annoying little pissant” and another host impersonated a Chinese accent when talking about an American- born sports agent of Asian descent who speaks perfect English.
But neither of those events is what led Entercom, the giant conglomerate that also owns three stations in the Twin Cities, to stop looking the other way.
Statement from WEEI: pic.twitter.com/cLykP0gtFB
— WEEI (@WEEI) February 14, 2018
Advertisers started bailing and that’s what gets a station owner’s attention. And prior to the announcement, the Red Sox indicated they had “a growing level of concern” about the station that carries their games.
Even the state’s attorney general — not explaining why this was the last straw — suggested pulling state advertising.
There was only one thing left to do: theater. Pure theater.
“Sensitivity training for sports talk hosts is like teaching NFL players how to tackle gently,” Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers Magazine, tells the Boston Herald.
Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung, who called out the station in a column Monday, writes today that it’s a step in the right direction.
She declared this week that the station had crossed a line with its recent woes. Comparing a black student to a gorilla didn’t?
Now some of you are already asking: Why does it matter to me? I can just turn off the radio. I don’t even listen toWEEI, but their vile comments — whether it’s about women or people of color — give license to listeners to offend.
It no longer becomes a bunch of guys mouthing off in front of a microphone but building a culture of hate and acceptance of the unacceptable. It explains how locker room talk can elect a president.
I’m not espousing theories here. Look what happened when I tweeted out the Globe’s story about Fauria’s suspension. I thought the station didn’t go far enough and should have suspended co-hosts Glenn Ordway and Lou Merloni, as accessories to an offense. Listen to the tape: Their laughing egged Fauria on.
Many people told me I need to lighten up — and they were polite about it. Others decided to respond like a WEEI host:
Predictably, the listeners aren’t happy.
“WEEI has entertained me more than the Red Sox have lately,” one said.
Others have said they’ll organize their own effort to pressure advertisers… in the Boston Globe, as a penalty for printing Leung’s column.
Maybe the station should just broadcast the sensitivity training.