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Sportsnet Strikes Out Again With Blundell Hire

The NHL's primary television rights holders hired a shock-jock radio host who is known for homophobic comments and insensitive, offensive remarks. Dean Blundell will join Sportsnet 590 theFan in March and it's a huge mistake.

There are certain opportunities that make sense.

A college or university graduate moving into an internship. A student who has finished his or her undergrad going to medical school, or moving onto a masters degree. A man or woman who has worked hard and put in their time who earns a promotion or raise. Those things make sense. Hiring Dean Blundell to anchor the morning show on The Fan 590 does not.

If you didn't know, Dean Blundell hosted a morning show on 102.1 the Edge in Toronto for 13 years until it was suspended for homophobic remarks and ultimately cancelled a month later. As the Toronto Star noted in June, "The show had been repeatedly sanctioned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for homophobic and discriminatory views."

Not only was Blundell the face of the show, but his producer and co-hosts joined in without hesitation. The incident that lead the show to be cancelled was the mocking of three men who were sexually assaulted in a bathhouse. Producer Derek Welsman served as a juror and discussed the case on-air using vile and hateful scenarios. An apology was later issued.

If that wasn't enough to fill a resume with black marks, Blundell joked about a young Edmonton Oilers prospect committing suicide in Latvia. Blundell made snide comments about Kristians Pelss taking his life (Ed: please see note at the end of this post) because he would have to play in Edmonton. Making light of a grave situation is what Blundell did for a living. He mocked the delicate state of mind of a young man and laughed as he pretended to know why Pelss went to such lengths to stop feeling tremendous pain.

This is the man Sportsnet and The Fan 590 have hired to to wake their listeners up in the morning as he tries to hide his true colours during their commute. Sportsnet's president Scott Moore said Tuesday, "He's a bold move, a risky move one might say. I spent a great deal of time with him when we were looking at whether or not to make this decision and I'm convinced he's going to be a terrific fit."

What Sportsnet is asking the shock-jock DJ to do is reform himself and become another person. They're only asking Blundell to be everything he's not known for, leave the personality and worldviews at home. Sportsnet was looking for the opposite candidate and chose Blundell to be bold, to show what exactly?

The show will begin in March and is called "Dean Blundell & Co." The name itself implies a return of the man who lost his show due to repeated homophobic comments without remorse. What the title implies is the shock-jock radio host will return from the ashes thanks to The Fan 590. It implies he's being rescued by the largest sports network in Canada, and in a way he is. Blundell prides himself on pushing boundaries. Boundaries can be pushed without offending, boundaries can be pushed without displaying a lack of respect towards anyone that is not Dean Blundell.

There are so few females and so few new faces to sports radio in Toronto. I doubt you'd have to look far to find other candidates willing to take on the morning show with experience and without the black marks on their resume. Sportsnet continues to make decisions that exclude and give those with status and privilege the same opportunities. A white male with a history of disrespect and homophobia is at the forefront of your radio coverage. That sends a message and it's not "what a bold move" it's "what a joke."

Working in sports media, I never felt untouchable. I never felt like I was on solid ground, like I was completely safe even though I was doing my job and more. I worked my ass off, I was never late, never written up, and still I felt like the tiniest of mistakes could strip my job from me. What a world Blundell lives in to know he'll be hired again and again because ratings say it's a good idea. How lucky he is to be able to issue an apology every time he says something offside and is given a pat on the back by his employer.

If Sportsnet wanted to be bold, they should have thought about giving a woman an opportunity. Of all the podcasts, weekend, seasonal and weekly/daily radio shows, 42 of the hosts and co-hosts are men. Some hosts duplicate but the 42 slots are held by men only. There are zero women hired at Sportsnet to broadcast radio as a co-host or host. You can argue all day that giving women a chance at radio is taking jobs away from men who have experience or are "better" than a woman. Giving Dean Blundell a job over someone else in general is taking a position away from a serious journalist with integrity.

The Fan hired Blundell for the ratings he brought when he joined the station as a guest periodically. The thing is, they're asking him not to be himself this time around. They're asking him to bring his name and his listeners to the station, but leave everything he's known for behind. It seems like a colossal waste of time and a big risk on a man who has shown he can't be controlled.


Editor's Note: Hi, Chemmy here. Twitter user @RomulusNotNuma pointed the following out to us:

I'd like to say a quick apology here on behalf of the site, I don't believe Katie meant any disrespect. I personally had never heard that it wasn't a suicide and this certainly wasn't done with malice. I agree with Romulus' viewpoint.