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You Only Have To Worry About Cancel Culture If You Aren’t Worth The Fight

“Like everything else in the American business world, the act of getting cancelled is a market response.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Last week felt like one long discussion about the evil effects of cancel culture. First it was former MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano. She was fired from her role on The Mandalorian after posting some questionable opinions. I’m a Star Wars nerd, so I made a point to know exactly what was said that was so objectionable, and aside from one tweet misrepresenting the Holocaust as something that was “just like today” and another insinuating the January 6 raid on the US Capitol was justified, Carano’s offending posts were largely just bad jokes and conspiracy theories only the stupidest in Q’s ranks would entertain.

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Then Friday night came word that Chris Doyle had resigned from the role he was recently given with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Urban Meyer hired Doyle despite a long list of accusations against him from his time at Iowa. It started with verbally abusing players and ended with accusations that he was an unapologetic racist. Urban Meyer defended Doyle at first, but by the end of the week, the fight was done and Doyle was gone.

We can bemoan cancel culture if you want. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this is all these two moves were about. But is that the truth? Is cancel culture even a real thing? 

Culture, any culture anywhere, is ever-evolving. What was acceptable to one generation isn’t to another. What yesterday was “harmless fun” or “boys being boys” is looked at with more scrupulous eyes today. That isn’t a bad thing.

Sure, that can be a tough road to navigate, but in a business where we talk for a living, doesn’t it make sense to understand what the line is now and make educated choices about your words and which hills are worth dying on? Doesn’t it make sense to pay attention to what the new norms are for your audience? It doesn’t mean you can’t take controversial stances. You just have to be aware of what is unpopular versus what is unforgivable.

While I’ve never really been one to dwell on cancel culture and its effects on America, I saw a video on Friday that totally reframed the argument for me. People don’t get cancelled just because they said something stupid and offensive. They get cancelled because they said or did something offensive and they are not valuable enough for their current or future employers to weather the storm that will inevitably die down.

As a fighter, Gina Carano fought just eight times, and not at all in the last 11 years. As an actress, she has been in eleven movies and two scripted TV shows. You’ve heard of a total of 3 of them. Gina Carano has name recognition. She doesn’t bring irreplaceable value to anything she does. Even in the case of The Mandalorian, her character’s story arc was pretty much done. There was no reason Disney had to think she might be worth the headache.

Chris Doyle is a strength coach. You can find a replacement at any athletic program in the country. The position he was hired to fill in Jacksonville was some made up bullshit title, “Director of Sports Performance”. It was Urban Meyer trying to help a buddy out. I guarantee it is a role that doesn’t even exist after the weekend.

The video I mentioned earlier featured Dave Chappelle. Whether you like the guy or not, you have to admit that he is an absolute legend in the stand up comedy world and that he is a guy people with money look at and say “he is worth it.” 

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In the video, Chappelle says some objectionable stuff, as he often does. Remember, this is a guy that has rightfully been accused of blatant misogyny and transphobia in the past. He also explains why he asked Netflix and CBS/Viacom to take down episodes of Chapelle Show, the sketch show he created for Comedy Central early this century and then walked away from after just two and a half seasons. More importantly, he explains why the two companies obliged his request.

Here’s the thing about Dave Chappelle. Theater owners, Netflix executives, and anyone else he does business with think Dave is worth the fight. Killing Them Softly remains a standup special on par with Eddie Murphy Raw and Chris Rock’s Bigger & Blacker. Chappelle Show has the misfortune of existing the exact same time as The Sopranos and The Wire. The show didn’t get nearly as many fawning think pieces as its peers, but make no mistake, it is one of the very best TV shows that has ever aired on cable television and it should be remembered along with those giants of its era. A track record like that establishes a loyal audience.

In the first two minutes of the video, Chappelle talks about contracting Covid-19 and seems to insinuate that people staying home more, wearing masks when they go out, and following other precautions are cowards. As someone with a wife that works in a hospital and spent most of the winter coming home in tears, I wasn’t a huge fan of that, but I stuck with the video because I love listening to Dave Chappelle. It’s not just that he is incredibly funny. It’s that he is a great speaker and storyteller. I am a fan. I could look past the stuff that bothers me.

Cancel culture is really two things. It is the public saying that you have done something that it can no longer support, and it is your bosses telling you “sorry, but you aren’t worth it.” The latter is way more consequential than the former.

The broadcaster bemoaning cancel culture is the college football coach railing against the transfer portal or NIL legislation. They aren’t worth being taken seriously because their complaint boils down to not wanting to try harder.

We have seen this before in radio. Phil Zachary, WEEI’s then-market manager stood by Kirk & Callahan despite any number of objections from activists that complained something the duo did was unforgivable. As long as the show was winning ratings battles and staying profitable, the duo were worth the fight to Entercom.

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Certainly you can name examples where management did not go to bat for talent, and I won’t argue with you. The fact of the matter is that “getting cancelled” isn’t something unruly mobs of people on Twitter or TikTok make happen. 

Like everything else in the American business world, the act of getting cancelled is a market response. The people actually deciding who loses and keeps their jobs have just done a really really good job of rebranding getting fired as something that isn’t the work of a corporation looking out for its bottom line, but the fault of young people with a different world view from previous generations and a world wide platform thanks to social media.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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