A Houlton radio station has fired two announcers for derogatory comments they made about the weight of women’s basketball players during the station’s live broadcast.
WHOU-FM owner Fred Grant said he fired Jim Carter, a former coach, and Steve Shaw, a former athletic director, on Thursday night after finishing broadcasting a high school basketball game in Caribou. Grant said he started seeing complaints almost immediately after advertisers made their comments. Shaw and Carter had been streaming games for WHOU for about a month, Grant said.
Shaw worked as an athletic director at Easton High School until his retirement in 2019, and in August was inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in the Legend of the Game category. Carter is a retired teacher and coach at Caribou High School and has written three books about high school basketball in Aroostook County.
The broadcast team’s comments were aimed at players at a women’s basketball game between Central Aroostook and Easton, who they were watching on another monitor as they prepared for their game at Caribou.
In a 40-second video posted to Twitter, the two are heard making derogatory comments about some players’ weights. One of the broadcasters was heard saying, “two girls here extremely overweight. Awful.” More derogatory comments were followed by laughter.
“I started getting phone calls immediately,” Grant said by phone Friday morning.
The reaction to the comments on social media was swift and universally outraged.
“I have to say I’ve never heard anything so unprofessional as what Jim Carter and Steve Shaw said about some of the…players tonight you should both be ashamed of yourselves and retire you from high school basketball,” a commenter posted to WHOU’s Facebook page.
“I agree,” someone posted in response to this comment. “One is my granddaughter and she is totally devastated!”
Another person remarked on WHOU’s Facebook page, “The girls cast in this video will NEVER forget this. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives. … Their bodies should never have been a topic of discussion.
Several commenters on the station’s Facebook page praised Grant for quickly firing advertisers.
“Thank you for doing the right thing,” said one. “There was no need for these on-air or offline comments. The children have enough to deal with.
But another added: “I’m glad WHOU acted quickly, but we need to see more of these men towards these young women and all those who are hurt in this video. Words hurt as much as actions.
Joseph Leach’s daughter plays on the team that was mocked by Carter and Shaw. Leach said he heard the recording when he returned home after watching the game.
“Mostly a shock, really,” Leach said of his reaction to the broadcast team. “I was home after the games and someone shared the video with us and I knew straight away it was Jim Carter and Steve Shaw talking, and I really couldn’t believe what they said, honestly.”
Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Carter declined to elaborate on the incident, but expressed remorse. He said he apologized to the school superintendent who has the players he disparaged.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Carter said. “Hopefully everyone can pull through and be okay.”
Attempts to reach Shaw for an interview were unsuccessful on Friday.
WHOU has been broadcasting live high school sports for 11 years, primarily in Aroostook County, but also expanding to statewide events. In November, the station aired live state championship football games and aired high school basketball tournament games in the past.
All announcers hired by WHOU are trained to stay focused on the action of the game and refrain from making negative comments about players, coaches or officials, Grant said. The games are broadcast to highlight the good things happening in communities, he added.
“It’s in writing. It is verbalized. It’s repeated,” Grant said. “They knew the case. This is a colossal failure on their part.
Grant issued a statement of apology on behalf of the WHO on Thursday evening.
“Our mission has been to bring out the best in our communities, our schools, the programs we love, and most importantly, our students. Tonight, two broadcasters made comments that were not only inappropriate, but also blatantly untrue. These broadcasters have been removed.
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