Monday, May 14, 2012

More Than Music: The war against black sports radio

If you read my review of the documentary “Beats, Rhymes Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”  last year, you will remember that I credit much of my love for Hip Hop to my big brother, Henry Lake, Jr. The same could be said for my interest in sports.

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than watching football on Sundays with my dad and brother or sneaking in the living room to watch basketball when my brother had friends over. I enjoyed their commentary more than anything but over time, this grew into a genuine love for the game.

Over the years, my brother became known as something of a basketball expert in the city and eventually got the opportunity to host a sports talk radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM in Minneapolis. This was my introduction to sports talk and I immediately fell in love. I listened to just about every show featured on the station and would even call in to give my two cents on a topic every now and then. I learned that sports talk radio was so much more than breaking down the x’s and o’s of a given game. There was comedy and culture involved and I found it all highly entertaining.

Soon after being introduced to KFAN, one of my best friends told me to listen to the 2 Live Stews show. The Stews are two brothers (literally) who had a nationally syndicated sports talk show out of Atlanta. Doug and Ryan Stewart started each show to Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terror Dome” and, as members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., ended each show with George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”. They instantly became staples in my day. I would schedule my entire day around The Stews. Yes, it was that serious.

When I started listening to The Stews, they had a 3 hour nationally syndicated show. These boys from Monck's Corner, SC kept their show lively with gut busting commentary and high energy discussion.  The show completely centered around their listeners, or as they called them, “dogs and poodles”.  It reminded me of sitting in the living room with my brother and his friends, listening to them debate the hot sports topics of the day. There were arguments, lots of jokes, and plenty of Hip Hop.

In 2007, The Stews branched out into TV, with recurring appearances on ESPN's "First Take" and their own TV One show "Black Men Revealed." The Stews were being seen and heard in more places than ever but they still lost their syndication deal with Sporting News Radio.

Atlanta-based radio station WQXI 790 The Zone, had been the radio home of The 2 Live Stews show since the show’s start in 2001. Within five years, The 2 Live Stews became the highest rated show on the station. Once The Stews lost syndication with Sporting News, fans outside the Atlanta area now had to listen to The Stews online at WQXI’s website.

Eventually, WQXI got a new Program Director who was less than enthused about the direction of The 2 Live Stews program. Suddenly, The Stews could no longer choose their own music. “Welcome to the Terrordome” and “Atomic Dog” were replaced with “Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera. Oh, the horror! Additionally, The Stews could no longer call their listeners “dogs and poodles” or give “big ups” at the end of the show. They now had to say “thank you” instead of “big up”.

Are y’all side-eyeing as hard as I am? It was very clear what was going on here. The Stews were now deemed “too black” and 790 The Zone was having none of it.

As of last year, The 2 Live Stews were still the strongest show on the station. Other than a  disdain for diversity in programming, what would make you take away what made The Stews unique?

Something like Destiny’s Child, the writing was on the wall. The 2 Live Stews show has now been cancelled. The Stewart brothers can be heard on a new show called The Red Zone with some white hosts from WQXI. It’s clear that Doug and Ryan are just biding their time until their contract is up. I’m hoping they get picked up by another company who will give them back the creative reigns to their show.

It’s clear that race played a large part in The 2 Live Stews situation. Just look at the comment section of this story about their show’s cancellation. Commenters repeatedly claim that The Stews catered to “thug nation”, “ghetto” or “hood” listeners. It’s clear what WQXI’s fan base thinks of listeners like me.

What’s more troubling than the fact that my all-time favorite sports talk show is no more is that blacks in sports talk radio are damn near non-existent. There are no shows hosted by African Americans on ESPN Radio or Yahoo! Radio (who acquired Sporting News in 2011).

Blacks in sports media can be found all over television but are like chupacabras on radio. We hear a lot about the demise of black radio from the music standpoint but I think the discussion must be broadened to cover more than music. We’re losing across the entire industry. Can anything be done to save black talk radio? Should we be focusing on owning our own stations and catering to our own communities? What say you?


  1. Thank you for writing this article.
    It sheds light in a much needed area.
    As a true 2LiveStews fan, it hurts to see what has transpired.
    This appears to be, and is, a true act of sabotage.

    What I'm doing now:
    *Listening to old 2LiveStews podcasts, glad I didn't delete them!
    *Not listening to 790 at all, "RedZone" sucks
    *Waiting for the Stews to get a new home and their old show

    -Bakari (ba-car-ree)

  2. @ Bakari

    Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm kicking myself for not having downloaded the old podcasts. I wish they were still available somewhere. :-(

  3. as a long long time listener, 790 dropping the stews makes me drop sports talk radio.

    Its almost like sport talk radio is for gamblers. I want to hear stats if they support an argument or something, but rattling off of ERAs, depth charts, draft positions that mess is boring.

    I watch sports to be entertained and i listenED to sports talk for the same reason. The Stews were cant miss, on radio row, at Hard knocks, in Vegas, great great radio. Now that get mixed into a show that sounds like every other freaking show on sport talk radio.

    If people cared about the brave, they would be selling out. Sad.

    Yes Siiiiiiiiiir.

  4. Yeah this makes me mad, I haven't really listen to their show since I lost my job last year when I would listen at work. They had a show that blended sports, and pop culture from a more urban perspective. I knew it was over when they were only on 2hrs and introduced the show as the New 2Live Stews. They weren't always the best prepared but it was still entertaining to me. What hurt them was they didn't talk on Atl sports like others on the station and why would they when they are syndicated. Once they lost that deal changing back to local only topics was weird. I hope they find a new home but it will be hard cause most sports talk audience listeners are really racist I notice that from the ajc blog about the show and listening to callers in my own city on local radio.
    Oh there is one other black host on espn at night Freddie Coleman.

  5. I agree with the previous commentor. I heard the Stews from a Baltimore station when they first syndicated. They talked about ATL sports for a minute, and then went national. That was ok, as long as they still had their skits (Doug trying to audition for New Edition, Ryan's tirade about the Barber Shop Shout-outs....hilarious). When they started being almost 100% sports talk without the cultural aspect, I stopped listening. Like you, I listened for the entertainment purposes. There are talk radio shoes that are on that are much better informed than they were.

    Anyway, sorry to see them go, but I'm sure they'll be back. DOn't be surprised to see a sports talk show on BET one TVOne for them.

  6. Sports talk radio definitely has a problem with carrying African-American hosted sports talk shows. There is one national sports talk that has an African-American host that airs on regular radio and Satellite Radio.

  7. I'm a little late but here's my comment anyway. I loved their show. I live outside Memphis and started listening to the show on the local sports channel. When sporting news was bought by yahoo and dropped their show I still listened online. Then the show changed, it got watered downed and all the soul and flavor was sapped from the show for generic Atlanta crap. Then they were fired and I have never listened to the ATL station again. They have a 6-month non-compete clause that ends in June so I hope and pray they get back on the air. Its a damn shame that they are running us off the air, Micheal Baidsen was fired from his show and the diversity is very scarce in radio. I think Coach & Coleman is the only show on ESPN with Black hosts. I only listen to one national sports show (Dan Patrick) the rest are generic and boring. So I hope in June that Doug and Ryan will return to the air.

  8. I loved that show - they were very 'blackish" and it was good. i always planed to go to the "Stuper Bowl" party Bomani Jose is national but will be cancelled - he will likely be labeled too lack