There will be no live programming at Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday as the radio station will pause for 12 hours so employees can undergo mandatory sensitivity training in the wake of several recent controversies, station officials announced Wednesday.
WEEI said in part, “Nothing is more important to WEEI than the close knit and diverse Boston community we call home, and we are committed to actively contributing to its betterment. WEEI is in the process of closely reevaluating our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure our programming is never intolerant or harmful to listeners of our city.”
The training, which takes place on Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., also came after a Boston Globe columnist wrote how the station began losing advertisers following the most recent backlash, which happened after a host mocked New England Patriots star Tom Brady's sports agent, Don Yee, last week.
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Shirley Leung reported Tuesday at least three organizations have now cut ties with WEEI, including Citizens Bank, the Massachusetts State Lottery, and the Massachusetts Health Connector.
Radio host and former New England Patriot Christian Fauria was suspended Friday by the station for doing an impression that mocked Yee. During the "Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria" show, Fauria did an impression of Yee that was in an over-the-top, stereotypical Asian accent.
The hosts were discussing an erroneous story written Friday by Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges. In that story, Borges cited text messages he believed were from Yee, who is the agent for both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Those texts turned out to be a prank from a sports radio listener and the story was removed from the Boston Herald website.
Late Friday night, WEEI tweeted that Fauria's comments were an "insensitive and ill-conceived attempt at humor" and that they "do not support or condone Christian's comments and we have suspended him for five days effective immediately."
Fauria has since taken to Twitter to apologize for his comments.
"I cringed. I understand it’s a joke but there’s a danger in accepting the joke. said Daigo Fujiwara, the president of the local branch of the Asian American Journalist’s Association.
Fujiwara says they think the sensitivity training is a step in the right direction.
“I think we’re very encouraged that their statement mentions that they value the diverse community of Boston, the city that we love and we are encouraged. I think this is something positive that can come out of this.”
Fauria's five-day suspension came two weeks after fill-in host Alex Reimer was suspended indefinitely for using a derogatory phrase to describe Tom Brady’s daughter while on the phone with him.
Officials with Citizens Bank, who have been advertising on WEEI for nearly a decade, told the Globe that it's hard for their company to defend the radio station's offensive commentary.
"These kinds of statements do not reflect Citizens' culture of respect and inclusion," Citizens spokesman Peter Lucht said in a statement. "We have communicated that to WEEI management and have suspended our advertising on the station."
An NBC10 Boston reporter who spoke to Fauria on the phone Wednesday said the radio host declined comment but said he will have much more to say on Monday when he's back on the air.