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Monday, January 15, 2007

San Francisco-Based KNBR's Rod Brooks -- Who's Black -- Puts Down Black Coaches

Last Monday, January 8th, San Francisco-based KNBR's Rob Brooks (pictured) said, in response to a take that one college team should hire a black coach, "Notre Dame tried one of those and look what happened to them."

"One of those," sounds like a disease the way Brooks put it.

That comment led me to write this email to members of the California sports media community -- an email list that includes Tony Bruno and Rod Brooks. It's not just an email denouncing what Brooks said, but how KNBR conducts it's business. But more to the point on Martin Luther King's Birthday, it's terrible to know that there are African Americans who would waste no time in putting down someone else because they're black.

Here's what I wrote:

Greetings All,

I understand "Mr C In Heaven" but I have this take: what KNBR's Rod Brooks says goes out to millions of people locally in Northern California -- it's not small time at all. The San Francisco Bay Area has the highest ad costs per ratings point of any part of the country.

Some of those listeners form their opinions from what they hear on KNBR. I hear it from time to time, someone litterally parroting what was said on KNBR. People use sports talk radio to essentially "think" for them. And the more the message touches that person's more baser feelings -- like racial matters -- the more likely it is to stick. But that doesn't make it OK to be racist; indeed, it's every reason why one should not be. For all practical purposes, Brooks is a kind of role model, though a negative one at this time. I leave room for improvement.

That's why what someone like Brooks said Monday was socially irresponsible, not to mention a reflection of self-hatred. It does a lot of damage to the matter of the deconstruction and ultimate destruction of the racist way; what better tool to maintain racist thoughts amoung whites, Latino's, and Asians than a black person who puts other blacks down by referring to African American coaches as "one of those" tried by Notre Dame, as if black coaches were viruses.


Moreover, it -- this race-based approach -- is not even good ratings at all. Just because KNBR may claim good Arbitron numbers doesn't mean they can't be better. I'd be willing to bet that KNBR's numbers are actually terrible when compared to their potential. I could go on about how the radio station's website system is not only poorly designed, but not engineered for it to rank high in any Google-search of note related to KNBR's sports content and not even well-coordinated with its radio shows.

This hurts the radio shows and rating potential. If I bought KNBR, I'd tear it all up and rebuild from the bottom up.

Plus, KNBR's people -- it's personalities -- come off more often than not as "Angry white guys" -- attempting to stop any and all conversations about race by saying "You're playing the race card" and using this childish Right Wing term as if it was a kind of conversational hand grenade -- and it's almost laughable that a prominent black personality would assist them. But that seems to be what's happening. I've heard this before from others and as a constant listener to the show, I can document and write a book on them. People don't want to hear this at all. Please knock it off.

KNBR does not know how to reach the fan base of any of the major Bay Area sports teams. The smaller college sports organizations get no mention or play at all. The sponsorship program is lacking. KNBR knows how to develop personalities, but misses the boat in building a cohesive media information system. By a country mile. (And yes, I know what the answer to this is.) Moreover, there's little in the way of really substantive sports talk conversation. Here's an example:

On January 8th 2003, the Philadephia Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers in a wild-card playoff game which featured a 4th and 26 convertion by Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. On a recap of the game on KNBR, Ralph and Tom had on as a guest a female beat writer from Phili who really knew her stuff. She explained that the Packers middle linebacker was out of position and should have been deeper than he was in the coverage, thus allowing the pass completion.

While she talked, Ralph and Tom had little to offer to keep the conversation going. It was disheartening for me. Obviously by my recall of the event, it had an impact on me. I then started to monitor sports talk radio here with the "null hypothesis" that there was little of substance -- discussion of strategy, business, law, etc. -- that was offered. To date, I've had little content example from KNBR to cause me to refute my initial hypothesis.

Another example was when I was on as a guest regarding the Super Bowl and Jerry Brown in 2005. Rather than ask me substantive questions about why Oakland came to within eight NFL owner votes of landing the game Jacksonville won, Rod Brooks decided to take me on regarding Oakland as a host city.

It was not a smart move on his part, as I knew my subject and he did not. Moreover, I was very angry that Brooks and KNBR would continue a pattern of not only non-support, but attempted destruction of our Super Bowl Bid efforts and attempts to insult me.

My own mother observed that KNBR "could not stand someone who was smart and Black." I reminded her that it was radio, but then I thought about the matter from her point of view and the fact that I was assuming some KNBR people didn't know I was Black when they may have, and then recanted my initially polyanic view. I started thinking about my past experiences with KNBR.

It started in 2000, when Radnich had me on and asked how could we sell out the Super Bowl, when the Coliseum had sell out problems. Why ask that? I pointed out that all Super Bowls were sellouts. But here I am BUSTING MY ASS to bring this thing to the Bay Area, and KNBR's taking pot shots at me and the bid. It's like getting shot by what are supposed to be your own troops.

I told Agnew about this -- actually was real pissed about it -- because it would NOT have harmed KNBR to be a booster for the Super Bowl. Not at all. The Bay Area needs the shot in the arm. But we can't improve economically with KNBR pulling the rug out of what we do. It's stupid. It really is. I could not get over what the reason for the treatment was and so then, absent any logical explanation, figured that maybe my Mom had a point. After all, KTVU has never treated me that way; not at all and not even to this day. Neither does KPIX or KGO. So I had an example of how I was supposed to be treated by the media in working on a Super Bowl Bid and doing anything of substance in the community.


It's one thing to ask good questions, but the ones aimed at me were just plain bad and nasty. All of my friends who listened to me were happy that I not only defended myself, but basically made Rod sound less than informed, which was true. Moreover, it's all too common at KNBR.

The standard idea is that the people don't want substance (that's what Bob Agnew contends); but I charge that KNBR does not know how to give it in an entertaining way. When you have people who know sports so well they can talk about it in plain english, it's fun to listen to.

Tom Tolbert KNOWS basketball, and so is a joy to hear him talk on that subject, it really is. But football? KNBR has no one on the talk shows who really does know modern football strategy, methods, trends, and techniques. No one. It seems that the station has decided to allow more of the "emotion stirring" words and that opens the door to a point of view that is hard to mistake as anything but racist at times.

The point I'm making is that the station can't afford to have racist content, regardless of who it's coming from. It's bad for business. It's terrible for society. It's retrograde. PLEASE I emplore you all to reach for a higher standard. The Bay Area is becoming what it seems to hate the most in what it things Southern cities are -- racist. (Just take a look at the comments made by some Oaklanders toward Ignacio De La Fuente on Monday. Or the SF 49ers VideoGate scandal. Or the SF Police Video. Or the frightening high arrest rate for Blacks in San Francisco. I could go on and on.)

Atlanta is now much more progressive than the SF Bay Area -- ever hear the "Two Live Stews" -- but the SF Bay Area is under the age-old fantasy that it's better.

I do hope that we as a collective wake up and improve this matter.


Zennie Abraham, Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Sports Business Simulations


Unknown said...

Though I'm not really familiar with the specific situation you're talking about, I couldn't agree more with the point you make about the failure - or, realistically, unwillingness, of most mainstream media outlets to engage in a serious and meaningful discussion of race in sports.

On local talk radio shows across the country, racist overtones evidence themselves everytime a black player is called selfish, immature or thuggish while a white player is praised in a similar situation for toughness, competitiveness or the all-encompassing "grittiness." It's been around forever - Mays faced it, Clemente faced it and players like Iverson still face it today.

Today, we still won't talk about it. ESPN will brush over it (aside from Kornheiser and Wilbon, who will give the issue the deference it deserves) with some clown like Steven A. Smith or Scoop Jackson to gloss the issue in cartoonish terms, while others across the country plead reverse racism and over-sensitivity. It's time for the world - and the sports world - to grow up and foster an honest dialogue. After all, they've got perhaps the most promising and inviting arena in which to enact real change.

Excellent post.

The Draftnik said...

well written Zennie. Maybe KNBR will Hire you to host a Business of sports show....

Anonymous said...

Hey dig this- standout piece. I found this looking for google to justify Rod Brooks' presence on KNBR specifically on the 49er post game comment with D. Bruce (as in former pro athlete but no dice). My gut has been leaning backwards as well on the token nature of his hosting. Especially if you hear a promo they've got on now of Brooks reading some nut job email that sounds made up of a woman physically ogling him. That goes along with the promo of him rejecting the Hootie music, as in 'no token brothers for me.'

Anyway what I'd point out is the whole controversy that surrounded Roger Craig and Al Rosen, accusing Will Clark and Robby Thompson of racism, when it really was those 2. That ultimately ended up in KNBR ownership overhaul and they're still having a hard time living up to the notion of racial equality.

Anonymous said...

wow 2009,they are still at it.

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