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Sport Radio host Joe Staysniak, a former Colts lineman, is suspended for 'insensitive' racial comments

18:56  05 june  2020
18:56  05 june  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Joe Staysniak has been suspended one week without pay from an Indianapolis sports radio station after on-air comments he made this week that included saying black people need to stop being victims, kneeling in front of the American flag is treason, the Confederate flag is not racist and he finds it hard to believe black people are being targeted by police.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Offensive lineman Joe Staysniak #79 of the Indianapolis Colts blocks as quarterback Jim Harbaugh #12 looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on September 18, 1994 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the Colts 31-21. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) © George Gojkovich PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Offensive lineman Joe Staysniak #79 of the Indianapolis Colts blocks as quarterback Jim Harbaugh #12 looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on September 18, 1994 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Colts 31-21. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

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"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 Jeff Rickard, Staysniak's co-host on "The Fan Morning Show with Jeff and Big Joe." "And it’s time for them to be heard in the wake of the George Floyd murder."

Staysniak, a former Indianapolis Colts lineman, and Rickard were discussing the protests in Indianapolis and across America that were prompted by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died last month after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd lay handcuffed facedown.

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Black people need to say, "I'm going to stop being a victim," Staysniak told his listeners on WFNI-1070 Wednesday. To do so, "Well, you know, get an education, you know, get a second job," he said.

Rickard read an apology from Staysniak Friday in which he said, "I am really sorry for the pain and hurt that I caused by my comments this week."

Staysniak said he has heard from listeners and coworkers who told him his comments deepened wounds in the community. He said he did more talking than listening and "that was wrong."

"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," said Staysniak, who played for four NFL teams from 1991-96. "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 county. For this I apologize."

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In a statement read Friday by Rickard, Jeff Smulyan, CEO of station owner Emmis Communications, said Emmis does not condone or endorse viewpoints that diminish the injustices facing the black community in America. He added that the company stands firmly as an ally with the black community in its fight against racism.

"Emmis takes very seriously its commitment to the communities in which we proudly serve and reaffirms its dedication in rooting out injustices and oppression in any form," Smulyan wrote.

At issue

As Staysniak discussed Floyd's death Wednesday, he said the incident and others involving police officers and African Americans aren't a black-white issue. It is an issue with leadership, he said, and who is elected to office. 

"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."

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Rickard went on to talk about a statistic he read that said a black driver is six times more likely to get pulled over than a white driver in some parts of Indiana.  

"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."

Rickard told Staysniak that many black friends say they feel like they get pulled over simply because of their race.

"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."

Minutes later, a police officer called in and said he agreed with Staysniak. Next, a black caller said he was outraged by Staysniak's beliefs.

"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."

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After the Indianapolis Star published the story, the podcast was removed from the station's website.

In his statement read Friday, Staysniak said: "I am making a commitment today to the listeners of this station, my coworkers and the black community to be open to hearing the voices of those who grew up in circumstances different than my own to better understand the experiences facing the black community. I pledge to listen first rather than talk. I pledge to use my platform on the radio to be a force for change and unification to end discrimination in any form once and for all. Please know I stand against racism in any form and again apologize for my insensitivity."

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Reach her via email: dbenbow@indystar.com.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Radio host Joe Staysniak, a former Colts lineman, is suspended for 'insensitive' racial comments

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