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“‘Cornbread’ Said a Stupid Thing”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 28, 2007

Though more interested in the Celtics this season than in recent years, I somehow missed the radio broadcast of the game against the Rockets the other night. (I also spaced on catching Gorman and Heinsohn on the tube.) So, I am only now learning that Cedric Maxwell said a stupid thing; a stupid thing said for which he will offer an on-air apology during tonight’s broadcast of the Celtics/Knicks (little bottom-feeder) Garden party.

I’ve always imagined that Maxwell is a really good guy. Seemingly smart, fun-loving, and appearing not to take himself nor those around him too seriously. And he does a pretty good job as analyst. Great player, too: certainly enjoyed him shutting down Bernard King whatever year that was. My only brush with him was at an airport luggage carousel. (Where else?) I was on a recruiting trip for Harvard hoops; all my bags had Reebok emblazoned on them – they were our sponsors and gave us free stuff. Maxwell, a few years into his retirement, apparently thinking I looked more like a Reebok rep than a college basketball coach, came up to me and asked me if I worked for the sneaker company. I don’t know . . . was he looking for a gym bag? Sneakers? An endorsement deal?

Anyway, his ‘mot faux‘ (pardon my French) puts him only as the latest in a long line of those who said (presumably because they were thinking) stupid things. Stupid things that are typically sexist, racist, homophobic; the sort of thing that, undeniably, helps promote and ensure fear, mistrust, division. (“Aw, c’mon, it was just a joke.”) Let’s see: Howard Cosell, Jimmy the Greek, Steve Lyons, and a couple of local Boston radio doofuses: Dennis and Callahan, and many, many others. In the case of Maxwell, it’s easy to imagine, given his carefree, joking, keep-it-loose style, it’s entirely plausible, obvious, in fact, that he was hoping to make a joke, to be funny, to appeal to those who might think it funny. Hmmmm. Maybe not so funny to girls who are listeners or the mothers and fathers of girls and women who continue to seek equal footing, a fair shake in society. I know that sounds sort of heavy, but put yourself in a girl’s shoes, or of a parent of a girl who wants her to have all the opportunities anyone else has. At one point, maybe not so long ago, “go back to the cottonfields” might have been an attempt at humor, too. That one was never funny either.

But my problem with all this isn’t so much the speakers, my problem is with what is soon conjured by their superiors (or employers) as the salve to heal the wound, the little band-aid on the boo-boo: this idea of “on-air apology”. That’s all well and good, I suppose, if the goal is to save the job or neck of the misspeaker. But the real problem, the real issue is all those listeners, all those for whom the joke WAS funny (and intended). If there is to be real restitution or retribution, some worthwhile and impactful effort needs to be put forth to demonstrate that the speaker and the group that employs the speaker really means what the apology says. Dennis and Callahan should have been put together with the Center for the Study of Sport and Society or a similar organization to hold “on-air” forums to discuss racism, racist language and its effect on us all. Definitely. It was a great opportunity to turn a negative around. Similarly, Mawell and his employer, Entercom Communications, should team with Women’s Sports Foundation. (or somebody) and face squarely the issue of sexism, sexist language and its damaging effects. If the apology means anything, then that message needs to reach deep inside not only the joker himself, but all those for whom the joke was intended.

Besides, Violet Palmer is a really good ref (and I’m crying about calls all the time). Otherwise she would not have been in the league so long. And I believe Cedric Maxwell knows that, too.

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9 Responses to ““‘Cornbread’ Said a Stupid Thing””

  1. jim v said

    don’t expect satisfaction from entercom communication – when one of their nutjob talk show hosts called the green party candidate for governor a (and i’m quoting here) “a fat lesbian” the only response was an on air apology.

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  2. Jean said

    I hadn’t heard about Max’s comments until my (semi) regular
    visit to this site. It brought to mind Bob Ryan’s screw up regarding

    Joumana Kidd
    , which was NOT meant to be a joke at all. Ryan
    apologized to Kidd and the public and didn’t work (or get paid) for
    a month (more than an on-air apology…).

    The idea of “on-air” forums is a good one, especially to discuss
    how comments like Max’s make, at a minimum, an uncomfortable work
    environment for Palmer. Like Jim V says though, I won’t expect
    it from entercom.

    Not to Cornbread: Next time, just tell her to go to Lenscrafters…it’s an
    old joke, but it’s an equal opportunity one.

    Like

  3. Sandy said

    Perhaps those who check in here could drop a note (or a link to this blog post) to Entercom ourselves. A little thing, but they know anyone who takes the effort to write represents a whole bunch of people who feel the same but can’t quite get past the inertia. And maybe, in the end, the customer still is king queen monarch.

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  4. Jean – –

    I had forgotten about the Ryan remark until I was looking for a link for him to put into today’s post. It is mentioned in the wikipedia piece on him. I’m assuming that suspension did him some good. He had a way of being insufferable, too big for his britches.

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  5. Greg Herr said

    Entercom Communications Corp.
    401 City Avenue, Suite 809
    Bala Cynwyd, Pa 19004
    Phone: 610-660-5610
    Fax: 610-660-5620

    Couldn’t find an e-mail address.

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  6. Greg Herr said

    Entercom fired former WRKO talk show host John DePetro in November after he called Green Party gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross a “fat lesbian” on the air. DePetro later apologized.

    According to the AP story on the Maxwell incident linked from the blog. Not to either excuse Entercom or to suggest that firing is better than some kind of awareness workshop/forum approach, but just to get the facts straight. I think DePetro had had prior problems.

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  7. Sandy said

    Yes, I noticed that Entercom doesn’t have an e-mail point of contact anywhere on its site—neither on the “contact us” page, which is kind of funny, nor on the “community” page. Perhaps one is supposed to write to the local affiliate.

    Meantime, the Worcester Telegram offered a better report on the apology than AP, and said Maxwell’s cohort Sean Grande suggested people send their complaints to the anouncers themselves at grandeandmax@celtics.com.

    I’ve heard from sports-radio-listenin’ types that apparently he was imitating Tommy Heinsohn in his crazed ref-bashing–which is why the “mot faux” was categorized as an effort at humor. You know, I could even buy that, if the subsequent apology he gave had the least ring of sincerity to it. It was really the lamest kind of apology you could offer. An if-then apology that didn’t really address the issue…

    “If I said anything that might have been insensitive or sexist in any way, then I apologize, because she has worked extremely hard to get where she is now.”

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  8. JD said

    Cornbread is an old nickname that Max doesn’t go by because it has obvious racial overtones when talking about a black man. I’m sure Maxwell is waiting for your apology.

    Wow that encounter with Max really shed a lot of light on your true feelings. I can’t believe he didn’t recognise you were an assistant coach at Harvard. the Audacity.

    Did he ask you for an endorsement deal? didn’t think so.

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  9. JD – – Thanks for your note. “Cornbread” in reference to Cedric Maxwell was, and is, in common use. I learned of his not particularly liking it only after I posted, but given it’s common usage in everyday press when he was playing, and long after, and even today, I didn’t think it inappropriate. But, you’re right, I did use it consciously.

    As to the encounter with Max? What’s your point? Seemed to me that I was making fun of myself, i.e., why would he recognise me? No delusions of grandeur on my part, that’s for sure. It was just a funny (to me) encounter with a funny guy. I think I made my true feelings about the whole affair quite clear. You, however, never say what your reaction is to his comments. From your tone, I guess you’re on the side of no-big-deal?

    I was and am a fan of Cedric Maxwell. Reading my post cannot possibly make anyone think otherwise. I do think he screwed up. However, my bigger beef is with Entercom, his employer. And if you think there is not an opportunity to have something good come out of this, then I flatly disagree with you. And if you think I’m a racist for referring to Max as Cornbread, I’d be happy to sit in on a forum hosted by Entercom and the Center for the Study of Sport and Society or any other group to discuss it and to help more people face the issue. Maybe you’d offer to sit on a panel discussing the real harm that sexism causes?

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