Earlier Friday, we wrote about the Detroit Lions changing flagship radio stations after 12 years, going from WXYT-FM to WJR-AM. That in itself probably wasn’t worth much attention, except perhaps on a local basis. What made this notable, however, was the agent of a Detroit sports talk radio host saying that the Lions demanded his client be fired as a condition of renewing broadcast rights with the station.
Mike Valenti co-hosts the afternoon drive-time show on 97.1 The Ticket and has been a vocal critic of the Lions throughout his tenure. It’s a big reason why that program is the top-rated sports talk radio show in Detroit, and one of the highest-rated shows in the market overall. But the Lions apparently didn’t like that frequent criticism and have tried for years to get Valenti taken off the air.
(Some of you may remember Valenti from his 2006 on-air rant after Michigan State, his alma mater, blew a 17-point lead at home and lost to Notre Dame. The nearly 20-minute monologue, which becomes explosive about five minutes in, got national attention.)
Valenti began his show on Friday by addressing the allegations and saying everything that’s been reported is true, “100 percent true.” He added that it’s become “very personal” between him and the Lions. During the past 11 years, the team’s head of public relations, Bill Keenist, has regularly called the station during the show between segments to take issue with what Valenti has said. The host also accused the Lions of preventing him from appearing on local television and doing a Sunday morning NFL show.
You can listen to the entire opening to Friday’s show here:
During the segment, Valenti’s producer pointed out that the Lions have compiled a record of 63-124 while on 97.1 FM, so it’s not like the team hasn’t provided plenty of material for criticism and ridicule over the past 12 years. As if it needs to be mentioned, that span includes the Matt Millen regime as team president.
Valenti: Play games, win games, I say nice things. Play games, lose games, I say mean things. It’s that simple
— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) November 20, 2015
Longtime Detroit sports talk radio host and producer Gregg Henson, now working in Pittsburgh, chimed in with his own confirmation of how difficult the Lions have been over the years with local media and the pressure Keenist has tried to exert.
Lions have been trying to get people fired for years, it was mostly Bill Keenist. — Gregg Henson (@GreggHenson) November 20, 2015
It’s worth mentioning that Valenti’s contract is up in March, so this certainly does nothing to hurt his bargaining power. His agent obviously knew that when contacting various Detroit media outlets. But as Valenti said himself on the air, 97.1 FM clearly made a choice, siding with their top-rated show over having Lions broadcasts. So his position would seem to be pretty secure. And if not, other stations in the market would surely pursue him.
Going over to WJR probably isn’t going to happen, though.