A Cleveland sports radio station has suspended a Browns analyst after a hot microphone caught him using a derogatory term in reference to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The comment came Tuesday when longtime Cleveland journalist Tony Grossi was on the air on ESPN 850 WKNR discussing quarterbacks the Browns have passed on. Cleveland’s draft history has been a point of contention with its fan base after quarterbacks the team has bypassed or missed out on the likes of Carson Wentz of the Eagles, Deshaun Watson of the Texans, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and now prospect Joe Burrow out of LSU.
“Burrow. Wentz, Watson, keep it going, Mahomes, and now, Burrow,” one voice says.
“And who do we got?” Grossi replies. “A (expletive) (expletive).”
After audio of the incident spread on social media, the station quickly issued a statement indicating that it would be suspending Grossi.
“We are aware of Tony Grossi’s statement about Baker Mayfield,” ESPN Cleveland said Tuesday in a statement. “The term Tony used is a derogatory slur to describe Little People. Good Karma Brands will not tolerate derogatory language that demeans others or groups of people.
“We are addressing this matter with Tony directly, and while we normally do not comment on personnel matters, we do want to share that we have made the decision to immediately and indefinitely suspend Tony Grossi. In addition, we will pursue sensitivity and inclusion training for everyone on our content teams across our company.
“From Good Karma Brands, to our fans, our partners, the Browns and Baker Mayfield – we are sorry.”
Little People of America, a dwarfism support organization, has called for the slur to be abolished.
Grossi then posted a message to his verified Twitter account to apologize for using the derogatory term.
“I am truly sorry for my language and choice of words in a remark I made about Baker Mayfield that was captured on our live feed on TheLandOnDemand,” Grossi said. “I sincerely apologize for using a word that is a derogatory slur. There’s no excuse for using that language in any context. It was said without malice but also without thought.
“It is well known that Baker and I have had our differences, and in the course of this experience, I’ve had to question my role in the erosion of our relationship. I have always endavored to report and comment on him and the team fairly, and am shaken by these events. I will strive to be a better person and professional.
“I apologize to little people, Good Karma Brands, the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield, to our listeners and to anyone who was offended by my remark.”
Mayfield and Grossi have had disagreements regarding Grossi’s coverage of the team. Mayfield, who is listed as 6-foot-1, played in his second season in Cleveland and had an inconsistent year, completing 59.4% of his passes for 3,827 yards with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The Browns went 6-10, finishing third in the AFC North, after they entered the campaign with high expectations.
As a result, both general manager John Dorsey and rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens were fired from their roles with the team.