For the umpteenth time in the last five years, a radio show host who is paid to be controversial decides that picking on cyclists would be funny. He makes all the usual comments about spandex, and cyclists being in the way, and not belonging on the road. Then he crosses the line and says that “tapping” a cyclist from behind is OK. You know the drill. Except this time, the commentator in nationally syndicated bad boy Tony Kornheiser, the radio station is ESPN, and his remarks got the attention of a certain Lance Armstrong.
Not surprisingly, Lance gets pissed off and tweets his millions of followers to share their outrage. He calls Kornheiser to put him straight. That’s what we all want to do. We are all thinking “How could anyone be so stupid and say that, even if they think they are just being funny.” We want to go on the show and put the record straight. Get an apology. Remind people we’ve got a right to the road. Ask for some respect out there. All credit to Lance for doing that and for getting the apology; I heard he did a great job (listen here). We’ve been on the phone with the station managers since it happened last Friday – Lance clearly has pull!
My anxiety is this. Kornheiser got all the attention he wanted and so did the show. That’s what he’s paid to do. He got Lance Armstrong on his show – how cool is that? With a little controversy thrown in for good measure. We’ve learned from numerous previous incidents – one as recently as two weeks ago in the Raleigh area – that the only way to deal with this kind of nonsense in the longer term is with the station managers and owners directly. Five years ago, Clear Channel instituted a strong disciplinary policy on this topic after a series of horrible incidents on their stations, and it worked. Since then we’ve done battle with Entercomm – local Boston retailers Landry’s set them straight – and others. Some of the “personalities” have been taken off the air and disciplined.
I probably would have encouraged Lance to call the ESPN owners to say he wouldn’t appear on their networks again until Kornheiser not only apologized but also was taken off the air and made to do some PSAs and public appearances (maybe even in spandex…) at local charity bike events; maybe until ESPN agreed to sponsor Bike to Work Day or a Safe Routes to School initiative… As plenty of people have said, if he gets two weeks off the air for criticizing a colleague’s fashion sense, surely exhorting people to potentially kill cyclists ought to generate some kind of meaningful punishment. More meaningful than getting to chat with one of the greatest sports personalities on the planet.
Credit to WashCycle for being all over this story.
Andy Clarke was appointed to the position of Executive Director in April of 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director. Before joining the League in February 2003, Clarke was on contract to provide technical assistance to the highly regarded Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center on site at the Federal Highway Administration. He is on the Board of Directors for America Bikes, and a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.