Auld Lang Sigh: Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against WIP Bigwig Another Black Eye For Sports Radio

A lawsuit filed against Marc Rayfield, who oversees several Philadelphia radio stations, including sports WIP-AM/FM, is yet another blow to sports radio in a year that has been totally out of bounds.

The former director of marketing communications for a Philadelphia news station is taking her former boss to court on grounds of sexual harassment.

Attorneys Samuel First and Christopher Wagner have filed a lawsuit against CBS Radio’s entities in New York and Philadelphia on behalf of their client, Shelley Kanther, who claims she endured a “highly offensive, discriminatory environment and culture at CBS Philly.” Kanther was fired from her position at KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia, an action that she thinks is “in retaliation for… complaints” about the “degrading and extremely upsetting” atmosphere that she and co-workers experienced while working at the top-rated all-news station in Market No. 7. “No remedial action of any kind was ever taken” at KYW, according to the lawsuit, “despite Ms. Kanther’s repeated complaints.”

Specifically identified in the lawsuit by Kanther is CBS Radio Philadelphia Senior Vice President and Market Manager Marc Rayfield, whom Kanther dubbed “one of the worst offenders” during her tenure at KYW.

In addition to KYW, Rayfield also oversees five other radio stations in the cluster, including WIP, which has been broadcasting a sports format on AM 610 for close to a quarter-century – and just this past fall, added a simulcast on 94.1 FM; the station now brands itself as “SportsRadio 94 WIP.” This is actually Rayfield’s second go-round working at WIP: in the early 1990’s, he had previously served as the station’s local sales manager when it was owned by Spectacor Broadcasting. He was hired in the same capacity by KYW in 1992, and worked his way up to station manager. Later, KYW owner CBS Radio merged with subsequent WIP owner Infinity Broadcasting, and Rayfield had assumed responsibilites for WIP.

I could go into detail about some of the graphic “locker room behavior” that is described in Kanther’s lawsuit, but I won’t. I’ll actually direct readers here. And when you read the alleged comments and actions depicted in the lawsuit, consider this quote from the same lawsuit picked up by this source:

“… Kanther once complained about the discriminatory treatment to another female employee, who in turn told Kanther that the harassment was par for the course, and that ‘that’s always how it has been here’…”

One wonders if WIP employees experienced the same “highly offensive” environment that Kanther has while at KYW. I myself am not alleging, nor confirming, that a similar workplace exists or has existed at WIP. But knowing that Rayfield manages five radio stations – actually, four, when legendary rock station WYSP flipped to a simulcast of what was then known as “Sports Radio 610” and is now known as WIP-FM, though AM 610 occasionally airs programming different from 94.1 FM at times – the immediate thought is whether or not the same behavior can be found in the work environments of all of the radio stations under Rayfield’s watch.

Not to single out WIP specifically, but when you read about the alleged tawdry goings-on at KYW, anyone familiar with Philadelphia radio may immediately ask themselves, “Is this business as usual at WIP?”

In fact, we are coming off of a year in which sports radio personalities have engaged in regrettable behavior, on and off the air. This past spring, former ESPN Radio 1000/Chicago personality Jay Mariotti, who is also seen on ESPN, was arrested in Los Angeles for assaulting his girlfriend. In August, nationally syndicated host Tony Bruno referred to Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez on Twitter as an “illegal alien pitcher” after a pitch hit a Philles player, ensuing in a benches-clearing brawl. Just this week, we witnessed another lesson in how not to use Twitter as a sports radio personality, as Pittsburgh’s Mark Madden took an unwarranted shot at all women by instructing a female listener to “get in the kitchen, have a kid, dance ’round a pole.” (While the radio station Madden works for has an alternative music format, Madden has a strong sports background.) And, of course, there was the recent fallout with Albany sports radio host Bruce Jacobs and his comments about the WNBA which invoked gay slurs, which was first reported right here on sportsrants.com.

2011 also saw another lawsuit being filed, this one specifically against a sports radio station. Back in March, Jen Royle, reporter for Baltimore’s WJZ-FM “105.7 The Fan” – which is also owned by CBS Radio – hit rival sports station WNST, and its owner and main radio personality, Nestor Aparicio, with a defamation lawsuit stemming from comments Aparicio made on the air about Royle, including, among others, “that she looks like a stripper.” As you can imagine, radio station WNST, like its owner, Nestor, is nicknamed “nasty.” (Royle would drop the lawsuit right before Labor Day.)

And now, this latest lawsuit against one of the people in charge of one of the most well-known sports radio stations in the country.

Again, I’m not holding WIP or any of their personalities accountable. (Even former WIP host Mike Missanelli, who now holds down afternoon drive on rival WPEN-FM “97.5 The Fanatic.”) Yes, the lawsuit revolves around another radio station Rayfield oversees.

But to borrow an old adage, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Name-calling. Gay-bashing. Drunk-tweeting.

These are just some of the examples of things that sports radio can do without.

With all of the ugliness that has taken place amongst the sports radio landscape in 2011, what does 2012 have in store?

Hopefully, more on X’s and O’s, and not so much, T & A.

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Out Of Bounds: Sports Radio Host's Right-Wing Past Catches Up With Him

A veteran radio talk show host is in hot water for anti-gay comments made on his local program on a sports talk radio station in Albany, NY.

Bruce Jacobs, who had become the afternoon drive host on Townsquare Media-owned WTMM, known on-air as 104.5 The Team, this past September, was engaging in a discussion about women’s basketball, specifically, the WNBA league. He had referred to the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury franchises as the “Los Angeles Lesbians” and “Phoenix Dyke-ury,” respectively. (For the record, there is not even a WNBA franchise in Albany, NY; the closest franchises are located in the New York metropolitan area, the New York Liberty, and the Connecticut Sun team at Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut.)

Jacobs’ anti-gay comments were first reported by sportsrants.com’s own Anthony DiMoro, via the website’s weekly “Rantin’ And Ravin'” radio program. DiMoro, along with co-host Katy Mitchel, expressed disgust with Jacobs’ choice of words, to the point that Jacobs was being compared to Howard Stern and other “shock jocks.”

Jacobs told the Albany Times-Union’s Pete Dougherty that he would issue an apology for these comments on his radio show on Wednesday. “I will not apologize by saying, if I offended someone,” he said, “I will apologize for even saying it.” Meanwhile, he admitted on the station’s Facebook page late Tuesday night, “if I felt I made a mistake, I would apologize.” And while he dubbed his WNBA barbs “dumb, sophomoric and amateurish” to the Albany Times-Union, he wrote on 104.5 The Team’s Facebook page, “I personally don’t think it was a gay slur.” Also, a Facebook page asking for Townsquare Media to fire Jacobs from WTMM quoted him as saying to a listener on his personal Facebook profile, “Actually, I didn’t say ‘dyke,’ I said, ‘Dykyury’ as in Mercury, so you didn’t hear it.”

What the casual sports radio listener may not know is that Jacobs has not only been a sports radio host. While in Phoenix, he had dabbled in conservative talk radio as the morning man on KFYI (Fox Newsradio 550). His low point was in the summer of 2008, in which Jacobs presented a diatribe against the widow of a Phoenix police officer, Nick Erfle, killed by an illegal immigrant in 2007. Upon the cop’s widow, Julie, announcing she was in support of “comprehensive” immigration law reform, Jacobs likened her stance to having “amnesty for all illegal immigrants”, adding that the next time a cop is killed, she should be blamed for it. The rant even drew the ire of Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts – who, like Jacobs, is a staunch conservative. Local police have even attempted to lead a boycott of Jacobs’ show in the wake of his comments.

Jacobs was eventually fired by KFYI in June 2009. Program director Smokey Rivers called it “a business decision” based on low ratings. Though Rivers made it a point that KFYI “is often controversial” and “controversy doesn’t scare us,” he said of Rivers’ firing: “We think we can do better.”

Bruce Jacobs resurfaced on Sporting News Radio, now known as Yahoo! Sports Radio, in 2010, before joining the local sports radio station in Albany, NY, affiliated with ESPN Radio.

At one time, Jacobs also worked for Fox Sports Radio. He even co-hosted a sports radio show in Phoenix with Mike Golic, who is now one-half of ESPN Radio and TV’s successful “Mike And Mike In The Morning.”

But maybe what Bruce Jacobs really wants to do is get back to the attacks on President Obama and anti-immigration rants that he was accustomed to on KFYI.

Maybe if 104.5 The Team decides to be a team player and dismisses Bruce Jacobs, he can have that opportunity.

We think they can do better.