Joe Staysniak, a former NFL lineman and current co-host of the Fan Morning Show with Jeff and Big Joe, has been suspended by Indianapolis-based 1070 The Fan following comments he made earlier in the week regarding black people in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests that followed.
On Wednesday’s program, Staysniak and co-host Jeff Rickard were discussing the protests happening in Indianapolis and elsewhere around the U.S. Staysniak disagreed with many of the sentiment behind the protest, saying that black people need to say “I’m going to stop being a victim.” As far as what they should focus on instead, he added, “well, you know, get an education, you know, get a second job.” When Rickard pushed back on the idea that jobs aren’t always available, especially ones that require specific skills, Staysniak wouldn’t budge, saying “it is available if you want to find it. It’s available if you are willing to work for it. Nothing is going to be handed to you.”
The discussion then veered into the relationship between black people and police at the heart of the protests, to which Staysniak trotted out all the tone-deaf points you probably figured were coming. Rickard, for his part, pushed back on Staysniak in an attempt to foster dialogue.
“My dad used to tell me one thing,” said Staysniak, whose dad and brother have been police officers. “Don’t put yourself in a situation where police are called.”
That prompted Rickard to speak out: “But some of them don’t feel like they were in a situation where they felt like they were doing anything wrong.”
Rickard then brought up the statistic that a black driver is six times more likely to get pulled over than a white driver in many parts of Indiana, but Staysniak pulled out every tired deflection available.
“OK and then you have to look at why,” Staysniak said. “Is that racism or is that the time of day? Is that the car they’re driving? Are lights out? Are turn signals working?”
“Six times, Joe,” Rickard said.
“It comes down to a cultural thing too,” Staysniak said. “Are we putting ourselves in a situation where we don’t need to be? Again, when we have multiracial police officers…cell phones out…it just becomes harder and harder to believe you are being targeted like that.”
“I can’t think of a single one (of my African American friends) that ever said he’s been targeted, just been pulled over because he’s black,” Staysniak said. “I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m just saying it depends on who you talk to.”
The show then started taking calls and a caller who identified himself as black took Staysniak to task for his comments.
“I just wanted to say… just from a perspective of a black man, Joe, what you’re saying it’s hurtful, man. It really is,” he said. “You are completely tone-deaf. We are telling you what’s happening with our experience and you are giving every single excuse under the sun as to not to see it.”
However, Staysniak refused to budge on his beliefs.
“You’re denying anything. You’re denying responsibility, denying anything that could be on your part that has to go toward making this better.”
It’s also worth noting that Staysniak mentioned during the program that kneeling in front of the American flag is “treasonous” and that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol.
The negative reaction to the show was fairly immediate. The Indianapolis Star notes that when they published their initial story on the comments, the podcast version of that episode disappeared from the station’s feed. Then on Thursday, Staysniak returned to the air and addressed his comments.
“What I do here every day comes from the heart. What I do here every day is meant to help not hurt. What I do here every day maybe bring you a little different perspective. And this is maybe the most important part. I don’t think of myself as being a divider or anything like that. I obviously don’t think of myself as ignorant although I throw the word around a lot. And some listeners yesterday threw it right back at me as far as how ignorant I am to certain things and that’s fair.”
By the time Friday rolled around, Emmis Communications, which owns 1070, suspended Staysniak for one week without pay. Rickard hosted the show on Friday by himself and offered some insight into why.
“Joe, quite frankly, had statements that were very insensitive to a lot of the folks that are out there fighting for their rights and feel like their voices have not been heard,” said Rickard. “And it’s time for them to be heard in the wake of the George Floyd murders.”
He also read an apology from Staysniak about the comments.
“I am really sorry for the pain and hurt that I caused by my comments this week. Discussing on air the riots that are happening around the country, I shared views about systemic racism that did not give the proper and due attention to the horrible injustices experienced regularly by African-Americans in our society.
“I did not stop to consider that my own experience being raised in a family of police officers is not the same as the experiences of so many in our community and in our country. For this I apologize.”
Staysniak added that he will use his platform in the future as a “force for change and unification to end discrimination in any form once and for all.”
On Friday, the radio station posted a quote on Twitter from YES Network’s Michael Grady, who is Staysniak’s former co-host and appeared on the program on Thursday to discuss the fallout.
— 1075 The Fan (@1075thefan) June 5, 2020
It was less of an interview and more of a listening session but our time with @Grady was poignant, inspiring, heartfelt and needs to be heard by everyone.
— The Fan Morning Show (@MorningShow1075) June 4, 2020