WEEI Sports Talk Radio Under Siege: Massachusetts AG Healey Says State Should Yank Advertising

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/02/15/weei-sports-talk-radio-under-siege-massachusetts-ag-healey-says-state-should-yank-advertising/

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has chimed in with her thoughts regarding the embattled Hub sports radio giant WEEI, telling Boston Public Radio on Wednesday that state money should not be spent on the ratings leader “until and unless they make some changes.”

Healey’s comments to hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan followed a recent scathing column from Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung, published Monday, ripping the radio station’s “cheap and vile shock.”

Healey’s monthly “Ask the AG” saw Eagan raise the topic.

“I’d like to mention the kerfuffle over WEEI, Shirley Leung, a business columnist from the Boston Globe, has been critical of the radio station,” Eagan said. “One of their hosts talked in an Asian accent about Lee [sic], the guy that….”

“Yee,” Braude interjected, correcting his co-host.

“Yee, excuse me, Tom Brady’s agent — I don’t have the story in front of me,” Eagan continued. “She’s called up different advertisers asking about that.”

Eagan was referring to the latest problem facing the radio station, which occurred when host Christian Fauria, a former New England Patriots tight end, jokingly used a stereotypical Asian accent while quoting a series of fake texts sent by a prankster to Boston Herald sports columnist Ron Borges. The prankster pretended to be Brady’s agent, Don Yee, and successfully pranked Borges into writing a bogus column claiming that the Patriots’ star quarterback intended to sit out off-season workouts in order to score himself a higher salary.

“I’m not a big sports person, I don’t listen to sports radio, but I’ve heard that they can be tough on women,” Eagan continued. “A long time ago there were problems about racist remarks over there, and Shirley Leung has been calling advertisers and a lot of the advertisers have pulled their ads.”

Healey then chimed in with her thoughts.

“Look, this isn’t the first time WEEI has found itself in the midst of criticism about things that their radio hosts have said,” Healey said. “That goes back a while. I think that this is significant, you see a lot of advertisers pulling out and making a decision with their wallets right now, recognizing that there’s a real movement on to take this out of the discourse.

“I don’t know, when you’re talking about sports — and I am a huge sports fan, there’s like so much to talk about when you’re talking about sports, you don’t need to be, you know, making comments in the course of that which are racist or derogatory towards women, towards minorities, or the like.”

Added Healey:

“It just seems to me that there’s so much else to talk about, and unfortunately folks there seem to have devolved at times into making comments that are really unfortunate, but I think now you see them paying the price for that.”

WEEI has recently experienced a run of success, with its programs routinely topping the radio ratings charts.

Braude then asked if Healey’s office advertises on the station.

“You know, we’re probably the only lawyers that don’t advertise anywhere,” Healey said about her state-managed office. “The only advertisement I do is by coming on this show and talking about the people’s law firm and encouraging people to come to our office with their complaints.”

Asked if she thinks state money should be spent advertising on the station, Healey said “no,” but not without a free speech-related condition. 

“No, I think you see them pulling out already,” she said, referring to advertisers. “And I say that not until and unless they make some changes.”

Eagan earlier alluded to troubles that have stung WEEI, which started prior to the New England Patriots’ appearance in the Super Bowl. A little more than a week before the event, since-suspended talker Alex Reimer — whom Braude described as a “part-time host” — said team quarterback Tom Brady’s toddler daughter’s was “acting like an annoying little pissant” during a discussion of a clip from the Brady-produced docu-series Tom vs Time. Reimer has been on indefinite suspension since January 29, and the episode has purportedly put Brady’s in-season contract where he speaks exclusively to the network following game days in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the Fauria episode has garnered significant coverage from the Globe, as Leung has called for Fauria’s firing, with the columnist later indicating via social media that she and a colleague had decided to tune in to WEEI in order to compile a list of the station’s advertisers — and to track them down “one-by-one.”

WEEI may not just lose Brady’s weekly appearance — Leung and others have reported that Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox, who happen to be owned by Globe owner John Henry, are now questioning their relationship with the network. The Entercom-owned radio station has a broadcasting contract with the baseball club that does not expire until 2023. 

To summarize — the fallout has not been kind to WEEI. Advertisers that have pulled out include the Massachusetts Health Connector and the Massachusetts Lottery. Onlookers — including various WEEI hosts — have accused the Globe of hypocrisy, as the newspaper has recently dealt with a flurry of in-house sexual misconduct issues. The Globe has defended its decision not to “out” alleged sexual predators who have worked in its newsroom, but the adverse relationship between the newspaper and WEEI reached a fever pitch after morning talk show host Kirk Minihane named the State House reporter dismissed by the newspaper over alleged sexual harassment deeds whose identity had been withheld.

On Friday, the station will halt all programming and instead will have its employees complete mandatory sensitivity training, according to a statement released this week:

 

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