Lebron & Shaq vs. Rush & Beck - It's time.

Submitted by Tim Russo on Mon, 11/23/2009 - 08:30.

This week, Cleveland's city planning commission denied permission for Nike to replace the giant 10 story Lebron James banner across the street from Quicken Loans arena with this new one...

20fMural.jpg

...for obvious reasons.  Click through for more.

Commission member Norman Krumholz called James' image on the mural "terribly negative." James' grim visage and hardened stance play to a stereotype of young, urban black men as menacing and aggressive, a city design-review official said Thursday. Stanley Miller, executive director of the Cleveland NAACP, said in an interview Friday that the James mural bothered him. "The media depict [African-Americans] in a more aggressive, forceful, athletic -- combative, if you will -- position," Miller said. "The biggest challenge I have with boys is to build their understanding that there's more to achieve than being a football player, basketball player or rap star."

Nike isn't the only major company leaping across the line of racial sensitivity in Cleveland regarding Lebron James. In fact, this might be the image that captures the reality most accurately.

nike-hope-hate

Like most professional sports teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers broadcast their games on a Clear Channel-owned AM radio station, WTAM 1100, that also airs Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. It's time for Lebron James to address that. Not because he's a Barack Obama endorser. Not because he's a star. But because Lebron's a young black man who unquestionably has the power to stop it. Most of us are fully aware of the racial hate speech that both Beck and Limbaugh spew on a daily basis. Limbaugh called the NBA "the Thug Basketball Association"

Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association ... They're going in to watch the Crips and the Bloods

...Limbaugh's called basketball "the favorite sport of gangs."

Midnight basketball -- I mean, we've done it all. We've taken the favorite sport of gangs, and we put it at midnight to get them on the basketball court.

...said that Barack Obama's America is a place where...

You put your kids on a school bus you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering 'yeah, right on, right on, right on.'

...and we all know that Beck called Lebron James-endorsed Barack Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." I took it upon myself to find out how the Cavs, Lebron, and Shaquille O'Neal feel about sharing airtime and revenue streams with this hate speech, in an article last month in Cleveland's newest alt weekly, The Indpendent.

Beck and Limbaugh may not be on the Cavs roster this coming season, but they are certainly on the same team – WTAM’s. The Browns, Indians, and Cavs are a golden goose for WTAM. All three professional franchises make WTAM their radio home. And as long as anyone can remember, WTAM has also been the home of conservative talk radio in Cleveland. Joining the six hours of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh every day are an array of Cleveland conservative ditto heads. If the Cavs ever cared about being sandwiched into the nooks between Beck, Limbaugh, and their ilk, it doesn’t show. Both Beck and Limbaugh advertise during Cavs games on WTAM, their voices mixing with Joe Tait’s as Tait brings WTAM out of commercial and back to the game. WTAM milks their golden geese one after the other, the revenue streams almost indistinguishable.

No one from the Cavs, WTAM, the Lebron James camp, or Shaq's, has commented, nor have they made Lebron or Shaq aware of the issue.

It’s hard to see how Lebron, Shaq, and the Cavs can avoid addressing this for the entire 2009-2010 season. Beck and Limbaugh have proven they are willing to plumb the depths of the long sleeping cesspool of racial hate speech for their own enrichment... Meanwhile, Lebron and Shaq, two very powerful African Americans, each with the influence and support to affect change at WTAM, sit quietly on the sidelines.

The silence indicates the enormity of the stakes. What Lebron wants, Lebron gets. Lebron wanted Shaq - got him. Lebron wanted a new practice facility, it was built. Everyone on earth knows that if Lebron says the word, the Cavs leave WTAM the very next minute. And if that happens, every NBA team on an AM radio station sharing air with Rush and Beck will have the same problem. Which likely explains how freaked out Cavs spokesman Tad Carper was when he called me on the phone, from a game, in a panic.

Before I could even ask a question, Tad launched into what I can only describe as a rant, all of which Tad wanted off the record. He more than once claimed I was trying to “blackmail” the Cavs. Tad wondered if the Cavs left WTAM, when would someone else say something objectionable? Where does it end, Tad begged? You’re making us a pawn in your agenda, Tad howled. People listen to those two, they’re popular, Tad cried. I thought Tad might be a Dittohead.

I'm guessing that both Lebron and Shaq would step up in a heartbeat, but neither probably has any idea how dangerous, incendiary, inciting to violence, and racist the airtime has become on the Cavs radio home. The Cavs simply should not broadcast their games on that air and should not share revenue streams with WTAM, unless WTAM cleans up the air. And if Lebron, or Shaq, says the word, WTAM's air gets cleaned up, or the Cavs are gone. Period. So we need to make Lebron and Shaq aware of the hate speech they share airtime with. I'd like to ask this community to help put the pressure on the Cavs to do the right thing, and end the broadcast of their games on WTAM. This is a tough situation for this hope-filled Cavs fan, but it's time. Even this Friday night, on my way home from filming Palinbots in Columbus, I had to listen to Glenn Beck's voice of hate advertising his show on a Cavs broadcast while I was stuck in the car. It's not about a difference of opinion. It's about hate. WTAM's blowhards can be as wingnutty as they want, and I wouldn't care that Lebron shared their airtime. A line, however, has been demonstratively crossed, into hate speech. My hometown hero, Lebron James, who grew up in an inner-city neighborhood that suffers to this day because of this level of hate, doesn't belong associated with it. Ever. Enough is enough. So here's the email address for Lebron's publicity agent, Keith Estabrook.

keith [at] estabrookgroup [dot] com

Here's a list of emails for the Cavs, including owner Dan Gilbert.

dangilbert [at] quickenloans [dot] com lkomoroski [at] cavs [dot] com gnarain [at] cavs [dot] com AMercado [at] cavs [dot] com TCarper [at] cavs [dot] com

Here's Cindy Hamilton, Nike spokesperson.

cindy [dot] hamilton [at] nike [dot] com

Here's the Cleveland NAACP email.

information [at] clevelandnaacp [dot] org

And here's a list of emails for WTAM and Clear Channel, also known as the "no chance, but more pressure is good pressure" list.

news [at] wtam [dot] com thebigone [at] wtam [dot] com georgeallen [at] clearchannel [dot] com michellehurst [at] clearchannel [dot] com sharonmoses [at] clearchannel [dot] com rewards [at] wtam [dot] com

If you feel the same way I do, please email them all this image of Lebron, Beck, and Limbaugh, and ask the Cavs to stop airing their games on a radio station that airs racial hate speech. If your favorite team shares air time with Rush & Beck, post their email contact info in this diary, and hit them up, too. It's wrong. And it should stop.

nike-hope-hate

Diaried at Kos.

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Good luck.

 I've been a big proponent of the sports teams divorcing themselves from WTAM's right-wing format for years. Nothing upsets me more than trying to tune in an Indians spring training game and only finding Rush's hypocrisy. I've tried to get the Indians to explain to me why they have a broadcast team doing the game live at 12pm, but the listener has to wait until 8pm because Limbaugh's slanted speech is a higher priority for the station. I thought Shapiro (who was a public Obama supporter) might give me an answer, but I never heard anything from the handful of Indians officials I e-mailed a couple years back.

When it comes down to it, money always trumps principals for these folks. Aside from team owners largely sharing the views of Beck & Limbaugh, the teams sell the radio broadcast rights to the highest bidder. There is no other radio entity (thanks Telecom Act of 1996!) in the Cleveland area that can match WTAM/Clear Channel even if they tried. Add to it that they've got the 1st Amendment argument all ready to go, they aren't going to listen at all unless this idea builds steam. Right wingers love to feel persecuted so they'll waste no time rallying their base around someone trying to "censor" them.

Lucky for us the sports leagues are slowly moving their broadcasts onto the internet and the AM radio becomes less and less of a necessity. The days of WTAM getting the ears of apolitical, rational  or just plain sane sports fan are numbered. I look forward to the day when I can get in my car in the morning after a game and not accidentally hear a few seconds Glen Beck blubbering about how much he loves this country.

I'd love to hear somebody from the Cavs, Indians or even that football team, let us all know that they don't agree with the poor programing choices of WTAM, which no matter what way they cut it is a huge majority of right-wing, ultra-conservative opinion, a little bit sports and a smudge of actual news--I have yet to find bias in the traffic reports.