There is a constituency of sports fans who would like to keep the element of race outside of their sports conversation. However, the element of race is as unavoidable in sports, as with other institutions in our society. People play sports and the experiences that shape who they are do not depart once on the field or on the court. Cancer survivors or those whose family has been impacted by cancer aren’t asked to separate themselves from that experience when playing. In fact, we celebrate those stories of hardship, tragedy and triumph due to diseases like cancer. So why is it that the Black experience in relation to the injustices of White supremacy is frowned upon? It may be uncomfortable to look at racism in the eyes but racism as a nation is what we’ve done and what we continue to do – even if the tactics have become more covert.
Viewing sports through a racial lens isn’t always enjoyable, yet doing so helps us appreciate our journey towards progress while focusing on the journey ahead. For some, such a view is a reminder of our country’s past atrocities. These reminders are painful; and they should be. The wrong response is to dismiss the pain without reflection to inform future interactions with people of a different race. The wrong response is, unfortunately, a default response for many White people. This wrong response is an impetus for why conversations about race, particularly White supremacy, don’t advance beyond shouting matches. The wrong response is why the actions of 97.5 The Fanatic’s Pat Egan are not his sins alone.
One year ago, Egan, a producer at 975 The Fanatic radio station, portrayed a Black caller to the station. Stereotypes informed the character development for his portrayal; down to the name chosen. His character was named Dwayne; tall, had to pay child support, loved White women and a very animated talker. Egan defended his mischaracterization of a Black man by saying, on twitter, that he picked a person the exact opposite of himself. Egan went as far as to create a fake twitter profile using a picture of a “friend” of his wearing a shirt that asked, “Hey, where are the White Women at?” Station producer Jason Myrtetus, thought Egan’s “joke” was funny; Myrtetus, who is not Hispanic is comfortable being called Martinez on the radio.
That Egan is unaware of the racist nature of his “joke” is a problem. That Egan failed to see how his presuppositions about the values and behaviors of Black people shaped his characterization of a Black man he was pretending to be is a problem. Unfortunately, Pat Egan is not the only White male who believes in the myth of the sexually irresponsible Black man who prefers to date outside of his race; that is a problem also. Uncovered from Egan’s “joke” is something more problematic; racism in sports-talk radio. According to the station’s website, 97.5 the Fanatic does not have any radio show host of color during its weekly day time lineup. All the hosts are White men. Having listened to this station, I can say that I have only heard two people of color on the radio hosting a show that was not an ex-Philadelphia Eagles player; one of those individuals is a producer who does guest spots.
Egan, and the station, rather than concerning themselves with hiring more individuals of color to host on their station were more concerned with concocting a joke where a White man played blackface on the radio. That is the racism: that a station of White people, who have the power to hire Black people, or any race of people, chose to play a Black caller rather than hire an actual Black person, who was not a former athlete. As of July of this year, Egan is still employed at the station. His Jumpin’ Jim Crow performance wasn’t enough to get him removed.
Their competition, 610 WIP, isn’t much better. According to their website, of the 20 listed show hosts, 3 are Black; 2 are ex-Philadelphia Eagles and local legend Sonny Hill. Only 2 of the 3 Black hosts are featured during the weekday lineup. The same is true on national sports talk radio, where of the top 25 sports talk shows in the nation, only 2 shows has a Black person as a host (6 in the top 50), and they are each cohosts; probably ex-professional athletes. The majority of White hosts on WIP and the Fanatic are not ex-professional athletes, so then why is being an ex-professional athlete a pre-requisite for a Black host at either station? Why is a reoccurring “joke” the only way to add more diversity to the sports talk airwaves in Philadelphia? Are the boardrooms, executive and management offices as White as the host chairs at these stations? I am sure that they are.
White people aren’t the only people who play sports in Philadelphia. White people aren’t the only people who watch and experience sports in Philadelphia. White perspectives on sports are not the sole of validated and popular perspectives on sports. Yet in Philadelphia, and much across the nation, White perspectives are the mass majority of perspectives we hear on the air. 97.5 The Fanatic responded to this controversy claiming they are not a racist radio station, dismissing Egan’s “joke” as harmless and dismissing concerns over the lack of diversity on their station; pointing to the few real Black people they actually have talk on their station. While they did suspend Egan and other co-conspirators, they all remain with the station. Those also, were wrong responses. I chose to offer a right response; I stopped listening to 97.5 The Fanatic.