Would programmers hire DeShaun Watson from Sports Radio?


No criminal charges made it easy for the teams to justify their lawsuits against DeShaun Watson. The most recent Cleveland Brown still faces civil lawsuits from 22 women accusing him of sexual misconduct. All we have to say is the fact that a grand jury chose not to indict. Whether that means he’s innocent or that there just wasn’t enough evidence to press charges is irrelevant. No fees means no fees.

It is the legal status. With these civil lawsuits still open, we cannot say that DeShaun Watson has been completely cleared. He’s not the first NFL player to be accused of abusing women, and he won’t be the last. But, here’s the Cleveland Browns betting their mortgage on a 22-team bet that all of this will blow.

Professional football and radio are two very different worlds. One thing they have in common is that if you have talent and can make a difference by winning any game you play, there is someone out there who is willing to weigh the pros and cons of hire you.

I spoke to five program directors. I offered them all anonymity to answer a simple question. It’s a competitive business and there’s nothing safe in radio anymore. If you were lucky enough to hire someone with the same benefits and background as DeShaun Watson, what kind of answers would you need before making your decision?

Some were clear that even the accusations were too big to risk their brand reputation.

“I would need him cleared of the allegations,” one told me. “I personally wouldn’t be comfortable paying and supporting someone who has these kinds and so many allegations. Twenty two? WAY too much smoke.

Okay, let’s forget the 22. Let’s just say the guy had a story.

“I want to put my head on the pillow at night,” replied the same programmer. “You don’t have to be a Saint, but that’s a bridge too far for me.”

Another PD told me that as soon as the problem arises, he will start asking questions. He would want to know how his staff felt, how the advertisers felt, even how his wife felt. These answers would be important, but it would not be the end of his process.

“I think my most important thing would be the conversation with the man to see if there was any remorse and see if he understands the seriousness of the situation,” this PD said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think I would be comfortable pulling the trigger.”

Two of the people I spoke to said it wasn’t even a conversation they would be interested in. Their bars would be too high to think they could realistically be cleared.

“I would stay away unless I was completely confident there would be no further incidents,” one said.

Another said he not only didn’t see himself wanting to bring someone with that kind of baggage on his staff. He didn’t see anyone in the industry being willing to justify hiring someone you would constantly have to defend or make excuses for.

“Our talent has a constant and indelible connection to our communities,” he said. “There has to be a level of comfort and trust for it to work. It’s a completely different dynamic than an athlete playing 60 minutes 17 Sundays a year.

Alright, I’ll give that to that PD. Being on the air five days a week for fifty weeks each year is very different from “60 minutes on 17 Sundays a year”. But let’s not pretend that this idea is so far-fetched. People hire assholes all the time. Sometimes it comes after asking lots of questions and getting the right answers and information. Other times it’s as simple as hiring the asshole, that’s what whoever did the hiring wanted to do.

Right now you’re probably thinking of someone who did something terrible or said something racist on air and got a second chance. Maybe they even got a third one. It happens in our industry.

There was only one person I spoke to who I left thinking they would be genuinely open-minded about a situation like this. That didn’t mean that this PD gave me the impression that he would be a definite yes. He just seemed more open to the idea that someone with huge history and potential might be worth it.

“At the end of the day, talent always wins and I’ve always believed in second chances,” he said, “but if you’re going to lose key announcers as well as key team members, you have to honestly assess whether the risk is worth the potential reward.

So now let’s say the PDs want the guy or not, he was hired. Maybe their boss thinks there’s too much money to be made to take a moral stance. I asked everyone if that’s the case and the guy is going to be on your airwaves, how would you like him to handle the accusations and accusations against him?

It’s easy to say that doing anything short of not recognizing them at all is a mistake, but we live in the age of Google, Twitter and email. All of these digital tools make it very easy for someone else to control your story if you don’t. So what is your project?

“I would like them to be prepared to fix it to the extent that they legally can,” the PD said, I thought he might actually be open to hiring this hypothetical DeShaun Watson show. “Other than that, you just have to move on. If this talent ends up being very successful, most people will forget what happened in the past. People have short memories and generally like a “redemption story”. There is a long list of athletes and celebrities who have rehabilitated their images and turned the tide on the field of public opinion.

The first PD compared his approach to how Craig Carton approached his return to WFAN. He noted that the accusations weren’t similar at all, but WFAN and Carton didn’t try to run away from the issues they knew people wanted to talk about.

“I don’t think you can avoid his past. That would be dishonest and insulting to listeners. I would like him to speak about it publicly immediately.

One PD I spoke to struggled to come up with an answer. His initial thought was that of course you’d want to be central to the story, but maybe the answer isn’t so simple.

“On the one hand I would like him to deal with it and assure everyone who is not who he is and that he will show and prove that he is worthy of the place, and then on the other hand if you draw attention to it, then it’s back in the headlines,” he said.

Unfortunately, PDs are rarely judged on whether or not they are doing the right thing. Perhaps a better way to put it is that the right thing for a PD to do isn’t always the easiest thing to live with. After all, these jobs are about winning ratings battles and generating revenue. If an asshole can do that better than a guy who would never hurt a fly, you can’t just throw the asshole off without putting yourself in danger.

Personally, I wouldn’t bet on that, but maybe that PD is right. Maybe there’s no way a radio programmer or general manager has to do so many calculations when presented with a candidate with a huge advantage and just as much baggage. I’d love to live in that world if you’re dealing with someone accused of doing the things DeShaun Watson is as often as he’s accused of doing them.

It’s not even a question of morality. It’s about never feeling safe. That’s ultimately the choice the Browns made. If it earns them an annual playoff berth and even an AFC title, maybe the Haslem family and Kevin Stefanski will be comfortable making sure their franchise QB isn’t about to do it all. blow up for someone he met on Instagram.

All it takes is one time and everyone loses their reputation and most of them lose their jobs. Is that a risk you can live with if you take out thousands of radios and not millions from the NFL?


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