Media Views: Claiborne’s “Racist” Label Sparks Controversy

Dan Caesar, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 13

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This week, the controversy has moved to sports-talk radio station KFNS, as afternoon drive-time co-host Mike Claiborne had a contentious interview with Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller—with Feller hanging up after Claiborne called him a racist. Later, when discussing the incident, Claiborne used an expletive in describing Feller.

Feller, 86, was on the show Wednesday, discussing his baseball career and his days in the military. He then was asked by co-host Kevin Slaten to address what is right and wrong with baseball today.

Feller talked about players not knowing the fundamentals, then said, “A lot of the players coming from the Caribbean, they don’t even know the rules.” He continued by discussing how hype and entertainment, including music and manufactured noise, have become commonplace at modern ballparks.

Claiborne then interrupted, asking Feller to clarify his comment about Caribbean players—which came in the same week a talk-show host in San Francisco was fired for talking about “brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly.”

Several times, Claiborne asked Feller to specifically explain which rules he was talking about. Feller became irritated with Claiborne trying to pin him down and finally said, “If you don’t be quiet, I’m going to cut this off.”

Claiborne shot back, “You can cut it off right now as far as I’m concerned, you racist.” Feller hung up.

In an interview, Claiborne said he had no regrets about using the word “racist.”

“For the most part, I understood where he was coming from regarding how the game is being marketed and things of that nature,” Claiborne said. “But when he says the Caribbean players don’t even know the rules, that raises a flag. . . So I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He didn’t want to address it. I tried to politely ask him, I wasn’t trying to hang him out to dry. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. That’s not how I do business. He got offended by it, but I said what I said and I stand by it.

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A while after Feller hug up, Claiborne referred on the air to Feller as an “asshole.”

“I regret that, because that’s not something I condone on the air,” Claiborne said. “It’s a word that’s been used on radio stations before, I’ve just never used it and that’s the one thing I regret—that I said that. I was not necessarily angry with Bob Feller but more disappointed that a guy of his stature would have such an attitude about this subject. And the way he ended the interview I think was more disappointment—he just hung up. So I regret saying it, although I don’t know if I regret thinking it.”

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KFNS (590 AM, 100.7 FM) program director Rob Weingarten said no discipline is planned.

“I think Mike’s emotions were genuine,” he said in reference to the “racist” label. “You can never fault genuine emotion. That’s Mike’s belief. If he’s comfortable with calling him that, I haven’t got a problem with it whether I agree with him or not.”

But Weingarten was unhappy about the expletive.

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