Big Joe Staysniak suspended – there was a more creative and productive way to handle this

Emmis Communications has suspended Big Joe Staysniak for one week without pay for his comments Wednesday about race.

This is what traditionally happens in talk radio when comments by a host elicit outrage – get the host off the air to show there are consequences for uttering a series of statements that enflame the community.

I wish Emmis had chosen another path.  It’s not like Big Joe just wandered in off the street and needed to learn a lesson about where the lines in Indianapolis talk radio are.  He’s been at Emmis for 26 years – first as a Colts player, then afternoon sports sidekick with Dave “the King” Wilson, then morning show co-host with Terri Stacy, and now on 1070 the Fan.

Joe was even managed by me for a time.  We worked together for more than 15 years.  I know Joe very well, and consider him a friend.  I do not consider Joe a racist, and I assume management at Emmis doesn’t either, or his absence would be permanent.

Instead of the suspension, I wish Emmis had mandated Joe remain on the show for a week of testimony about race by blacks who suffer through spiritual and physical trauma caused by racism.   It would have been more constructive both for Big Joe and listeners of 1070 the Fan to listen to people tell their stories.

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As an example, yesterday, 1070 the Fan welcomed back Joe’s former co-host Michael Grady for a magnificent 24 minute segment.  Michael communicated with listeners and directly with Joe about the challenges blacks in America face, and the next steps needed to move beyond them.  It was phenomenal radio – enlightening, challenging, and thoroughly worthy of Emmis and those who trust 1070 the Fan as a touchpoint to sports and society.

Michael spoke of embracing “difficult conversations” to learn about the challenges black men and women face on a daily basis.

Having  Joe continue to co-host next week through a series of “difficult conversations” designed to educate about race – almost like on-air sensitivity training – would have served Joe and Indianapolis radio listeners very well.  If Joe had not said what he did on Wednesday, we never would have heard Michael on Thursday, and what a great loss that would be.

Joe is a good man, husband, father, and friend who grew up the son of a police officer.  His beliefs about humanity revolve around working your way through every challenge.  Want to get stronger, lift more weights.  Want to earn more money, sell more goods and services.  Want to avoid the police, do nothing illegal.  That philosophy has worked for Joe, but talking about the challenges others experience requires the ability to imagine walking a mile in their shoes.

Joe is very comfortable in his own shoes.

These are tough times for everyone.  Admitting that I have been wrong for virtually my entire life about not confronting racist attitudes has been humbling for me.  I thought it was enough to try to make sure I was not a racist.  It’s not.  Through watching the singularly gruesome murder of George Floyd and listening to others discuss it and other murders of unarmed blacks, I decided a change in my behavior is necessary.

How good would it be for Big Joe go through a similar adjustment, and how impactful would it have been for listeners to hear it happen?  It would have been amazing.

Hopefully, Joe takes this time off to reflect and be more circumspect in his thinking.  If he does, he will come out of this a better man and host, but it is a shame we won’t get to witness and participate in that transformation.

One thought on “Big Joe Staysniak suspended – there was a more creative and productive way to handle this

  1. Nancy Wheeler

    Great perspective. I think Big Joe would certainly agree.
    I wish I would have known to listen to Grady.


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