Last week a radio announcer in Calgary caused an uproar with Saskatchewan Roughriders fans when he said he hoped the plane carrying the Riders to Calgary would crash and four players would die.
People have every right to be upset by such a comment, but I feel as though I’m qualified to offer some perspective on this. The remark occurred on Wednesday and then an apology was offered on Thursday. By the end of the weekend we heard the decision was made to suspend him for the remainder of the CFL season (end of November).
Let’s pretend this announcer made reference to Darian Durant’s skin colour, or called into question his sexual orientation by using a homophobic slur. How long do you think the station would wait before deciding to suspend him? I’m going to say before his microphone was turned off on Wednesday, he would have been fired. So, there you have it. Sticks and stones break my bones, names definitely hurt me. You can wish death on someone and it’s not as bad as a racial or homophobic slur. The standard has been set. Heck, I’ve even seen announcers fired for a slip up and cursing.
I’m not defending the comment at all. It is not defensible. Every day players go off on airplanes and the prospect of a crash, while not likely, is possible. Ask Brad McCrimmon’s family if a remark such as that doesn’t resemble rubbing salt into a tender wound. The suspension is appropriate. But, it puts into light some of the firings that have occurred over the years were ‘over the top’ and ‘knee jerk’ reactions.
Sometimes we get carried away. The radio announcer in Calgary is a friend of mine. He’s not malicious and I’ve never seen him wish ill will on anyone. In fact, I remember him offering me money to pay off my wife’s engagement ring when it looked like I was going to miss my own personal deadline to have it ready so I could propose. He’s a good guy. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and say the dumbest things imaginable. And, in the twisted world of broadcasting we, as human beings, put ourselves out there to be made fools of, or be shamed, all in the name of ratings for a radio station that isn’t likely to reward the announcer in any tangible way. Think about it. If the sports radio station in Calgary gets higher ratings, the prices for commercials go up. The wage for the announcer does not, unless his name is Bob McCown.
I have my own experience when it comes to being suspended and I’ve never shared it publicly, but feel there is no reason to keep it a secret. Fox FM was in its first or second year of operation and Alex White and I got called into the office to answer for our persistent tormenting of 7-11. We had a custom song called “The 7-11 Guy,” which we got many requests to play from our listeners on a regular basis, so we did. We also played a game three or four times whereby we would phone the business to see if they were listening. The business had enough of our teasing so they informed their sales rep (I don’t believe they were actual paying customers though) and he passed it along to the manager and the hammer came down. We were both off the air. I can’t remember how long Alex was suspended for, but mine was longer. He was put on evenings, temporarily, while I was not to be heard period. This happened near Christmas, so it was spun off as holidays but I think I missed about two weeks, perhaps a bit more. While suspended, I noticed petitions being circulated to have us returned and while I have never made mention of them publicly, I wish to now say thank you to those who offered support. You know who you are. And, I know who you are too. When we came back, we did so under a written contract that made sure we obeyed station rules to the letter.
The bottom line to all of this is that radio stations are privately owned and owners are allowed to run the station however he/she/they would like. In Yorkton, it was determined that making fun of any business (paying customer or not) will not be tolerated. True, there was an incredible backlash from the public to have us re-installed, but it’s not for the public to say. The owner, at the time, was well within his rights to run it as he wants and if Alex and I didn’t like it, we could leave (which we both eventually did).
As far as apologies go, I can say, to this day, I am not sorry for anything I did on the radio in Yorkton. I am sorry for breaking station rules as that was never done on purpose, but I am not sorry for trying, feeble as it may have been at times, to be an entertaining person to listen to in the morning.
Nice person mentions this week to: Luke Strueby, Mary-Jane Gagnon, Brian Munz, and Curtis Stepp.