Big-league bungles force radio silence
Money talks. Loud enough that WEEI’s talkers are giving the city a daylong moment of silence.
In an unprecedented move, Entercom execs are pulling the plug on WEEI’s live programing tomorrow so the sports station’s buttonpushing talk jocks can undergo sensitivity training after several advertisers jumped ship.
“It’s a matter of the corporate world of broadcast media colliding with the politically incorrect culture of sports talk radio,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine. “I salute Entercom for the effort. However, sensitivity training for sports talk hosts is like teaching NFL players how to tackle gently.”
WEEI plans to suspend live programming from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow so all employees can take part in the training. An Entercom spokeswoman didn’t respond to an inquiry about what will air on the station in its place.
Bruce Mittman, president and CEO of Mittcom, an advertising agency in Boston, said Entercom “is probably trying to shore up losses in revenue and make a statement to the community” that boorish behavior won’t be tolerated.
The radio silence is the culmination of a horrendous stretch of bad PR for the embattled sports powerhouse.
Last month, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady abruptly hung up on hosts Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan, threatening to end his weekly WEEI interviews after yakker Alex Reimer called Brady’s 5-year-old daughter an “annoying little pissant.” Reimer was indefinitely suspended.
Last week, midday host Christian Fauria was suspended for five days for mocking Brady’s agent, Don Yee, using a fake Asian accent. The racist banter came during a bit about Herald writer Ron Borges, who wrote a column based on bogus information he was given as a prank by a WEEI listener.
“Nothing is more important to WEEI than the closeknit and diverse Boston community we call home, and we are committed to actively contributing to its betterment,” an Entercom statement said. “WEEI is in the process of closely reevaluating our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure that our programming is never intolerant or harmful to our listeners or our city.”
Shortly after Entercom posted that, Minihane tweeted a clip of his Super Bowl week appearance on Barstool Radio, writing, “Haven’t had a chance to tweet this out yet. Been busy the last few weeks. Had a great time with the guys.”
That led to a flurry of fans speculating Minihane might make a move to the Sirius XM station.
“Kirk stop wasting your talent over at WEEI… you’re built for Barstool Radio,” wrote one follower.
The Massachusetts State Lottery, Massachusetts Health Connector, Comcast and City of Boston Credit Union have already pulled their WEEI ads. Yesterday, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said the organization has had a “growing level of concern” with WEEI and has expressed them to station management. WEEI broadcasts Sox games.
It’s a good-faith attempt by Entercom, but if history is any indication, I’m sure I’ll be writing about another WEEI flap soon enough.
GETTING STATIC: State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, above, with WEEI hosts Lou Merloni, Christian Fauria and Glenn Ordway, from left, has seen the state lottery pull ads after embarrassing on-air commentary at the station, below. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy, at left with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, has expressed ‘a growing level of concern’ about the station, which broadcasts the team’s games.