The Detroit Lions have elected to move their radio broadcast rights to WJR-AM 760 starting with the 2016 season. In doing so they have ended a relationship with CBS Detroit who held the rights to the team’s broadcasts for the past 18 seasons.
CBS Detroit President Debbie Kenyon issued a statement saying “CBS Radio and the Detroit Lions are parting ways. 97.1 The Ticket has served as the flagship station for the Lions for more than a decade and we have been negotiating with the Lions a long time. It is sad to say goodbye, but in the end it came down to the integrity of CBS — the refusal to be censored in talking about the team and making honest assessments on the air about this team.”
So that begs the question, did the Lions attempt to influence the programming on the radio station?
Lions Senior Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships Elizabeth Parkinson says they did not. “This was a business decision for the Detroit Lions. We fully understand and respect the separation between editorial and business. At the end of the day, we’re a football team, and there’s going to be wins and there’s going to be losses, and there’s going to be things that are said when you lose that you’d rather not be said. But it’s a part of the business, and we all have very thick skins. It’s when it’s inaccurate or untrue that it needs to be addressed, and those are the times that we address it. But because someone has an opinion or a certain approach, as long as it’s accurate and fair, then it’s not going to be addressed. Do I wish that it was all happy talk? Absolutely. But it’s just not the reality of professional sports.”
While that’s the position the team has taken, there is certainly another side to it. Afternoon Host Mike Valenti who has the top rated sports program in the market has often been critical of the team’s poor performance. His agent Mort Meisner sent out an email stating that the team tried to flex its muscles to remove Valenti from the radio station’s airwaves in order to extend the agreement.
Valenti finally had a chance to offer his side of the story today at 2pm. He and his partner Terry Foster opened up their show by addressing the issue. Valenti believes the team is no longer with the radio station because of their disdain for him, his opinions and because they wish to control the message in the media. He says the club did request his termination and have been trying to get to him for more than a decade. Full audio of his opening segment is available below.
No matter how the team tries to slice it, this isn’t a good look for them. The franchise sits at 2-7 and most recently parted ways with their Team President and General Manager. Many Detroit football fans would prefer the organization focus on fixing the problems on the field rather than worrying about the opinions on The Ticket’s airwaves.