Big-league bun­gles force ra­dio si­lence

Boston Herald - - NEWS - — jes­sica.hes­lam@boston­her­ald.com

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.

STAFF PHO­TOS, LEFT, BY NANCY LANE; ABOVE, BY MATT WEST; AND BE­LOW, BY NI­CO­LAUS CZARNECKI

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.

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