Tony Bruno took to Twitter on Tuesday to address his removal from SiriusXM and Sports Map Radio, explaining that he’d walk away from radio after a 40-year career.
It was the first we’d heard from Tony himself since the cancellation of his show, which came on the heels of a Deadspin article calling him a racist for comments made about LeBron James and NBA players. The hubbub centered on a rant in which Bruno said “most of these guys can’t even read, for God’s sake,” which was the specific sentence that got him in trouble.
We shared the full video of that clip, and the preceding clip that adds some context to the comments, in an article published two weeks ago. Today, Tony went on Philadelphia’s 990 AM with Chris Stigall, and gave his side of the story in more detail.
It was a 15-minute segment and I’ll just go ahead and drop some of the more relevant quotes:
Chris Stigall: “Thanks for doing this. First of all, I’m really sorry; I know this isn’t your first rodeo and I know you’ve been around the block enough that you’re maybe not even crying in your beer about it, but I hate that this happens to anybody in this business, so I’m sorry about it.”
Tony Bruno: “That’s okay; there’s nothing to be sorry about. I said some stupid stuff on the air. And then of course there are people out there unfortunately in this world of tolerance, who don’t even hear the thing but somehow get word that I said something on the air or two Mondays ago. And then the Wednesday afterwards, two days later, after I was on the air on Sirius Satellite Radio and about 150 stations on Sports Map Radio all over the country, nobody complained and nobody said anything so I had no idea what I said was going to end my career. I was talking about LeBron James and was goofing off because I do a sports show, and I don’t do politics. But when somebody does politics like LeBron James, or other people, I give a response. He has a right to his opinion. And then I give my opinion on things that he’s done and the hypocrisy of not just athletes who pretend that they’re controlling the world – which they can’t even control the sport because the ratings are going down – but again, it’s not personal to me; I don’t care about LeBron James personally. He’s a great basketball player, one of the greatest of all time.
“I’m not a victim and I’m not here crying. I’m not calling people out. Sirius was good to me. But the bottom line is this – if you say the wrong thing or somebody thinks you’re saying the wrong thing, the immediate response is, ‘this guy is a racist.’ There is absolutely nothing one can do when one is called a racist, to fight back, or even explain themselves, because there’s no way out. And that’s what’s happening in the cancel culture that we’re seeing now. I don’t do political talk. I don’t talk about Trump or Joe Biden. Now I mention stuff on Twitter and I have fun with that because it triggers a lot of people, but I don’t make any money from politics and I never did. I’m not a Republican. I never have been, but I have a right to be an independent voice and do that, so that’s the bottom line. And you know what, so be it, but I’m not gonna sit here and cry and claim to be the victim. That’s an easy card that a lot of people play I just think that I think it’s laughable how a site in particular, Deadspin is one who did this. And the fact that the writer who did this hatchet job on me starts off his, supposed “column” with ‘F You Tony Bruno.’ I think that people taking that seriously or thinking that that’s something that has defined my life and career is an absolute joke.”
Explaining the comments that got him in hot water
Bruno: “…all I said was LeBron James is a hypocrite. That’s all I’ve been saying. Now if saying LeBron James is a hypocrite makes me a bad guy, then maybe no one should do this for a living, maybe opinion talk radio, especially sports talk, which is primarily opinion, but I like to base it on facts. So anyway, there are pictures of LeBron James reading the Malcolm X book, and of course in the bubble down there in Orlando, the media worships LeBron James, you know, all of a sudden LeBron James is sitting in his cubicle, and a reporter walks in it says ‘hey what are you reading LeBron?’ He says ‘oh Malcolm X,’ and he has a book open to page one. And then when the reporter, who by the way is a friendly reporter, not out there to try to catch him in a lie or anything, asked him, ‘hey, what do you think about it?’ he had no answer. Then it’s another picture of him with a four pictures of LeBron James in one box on Twitter, not altered, not attempting to bury him, but every single one where he’s reading a book, it’s on page one. I get it, you want everybody to know that you’re reading, and that’s fine. I got a little heated, and I say you know, ‘LeBron James, here he is reading books and he’s on page one of every single one.’ And people are expected to think that he’s a learned guy in world culture, because he’s reading a Malcolm X book, and he’s reading other books, but he’s always on page one.”
“Bottom line, I didn’t say NBA players can’t read, and that was the headline at Deadspin. So the headline at Deadspin in quotation marks was “NBA players can’t read.” That’s insane; I would never say anything like that, but I was basically taking this out on LeBron James, and one of the things I said, which was inexcusable, but now I’m a racist because I said it, which was was, you know, I said ‘some of these guys can’t even read,’ as a joke at the end and an aside as I was laughing about it. But then that became ‘Tony Bruno’s a racist because (he thinks) everybody in the NBA is an illiterate who can’t read.’ That’s not exactly what I meant and if that’s gonna be by downfall, so be it. I’m not gonna sit here and cry and play victim. I was dealt with and I was fired from two jobs, and if that makes people happy, God bless them.”
On how he was informed that his shows were being cancelled
Bruno: “Once that (Deadspin) story was created, and this was two Wednesdays ago, so I went on vacation, and the amazing thing is, I was told two Fridays ago or two Thursdays ago that my show was being dropped, no explanation. And listen, the people at Sirius have been great to me and I’m not here to throw them under the bus or anything. They made the decision because they live in a world where they have NBA shows, but they have other shows, they have political shows and I’m sure there we things being said on many of those channels not even closely as horrific as what I said. And what I said was wrong, but my career has ended and there’s no, ‘you know, we’re going to take you off for a couple of days and come back later.’ It was like ‘no, sorry we can’t run you,’ and then the knee jerk reaction is all my sponsors drop me. And that’s how it works, I get it. But to have my career end that way is an outrage.”
Bruno: You mention Deadspin; Deadspin is not a site that talks about sports, it’s a site that was taken down, and went out of business. It was sued out of existence, and then somehow they got new ownership groups and then they hire a couple of guys, whose job it is just to do hatchet jobs for clicks and the hatchet job that this guy did on me, is absolutely the most heinous and ridiculous thing you’ll ever read. When you read that column, I want you to read the Deadspin article about how this guy approaches what he deems to be the death knell of my career. Tell me that’s legitimate. I’ve been criticized, and we all have. People disagree with me and I don’t care, people disagree with you. The bottom line is, when somebody can go out and write a hatchet job article, which forces companies to just (fire you), without any kind of consultation, without even knowing that what I said on air without having one complaint. I said what I said, and then two days later because Deadspin puts out a hatchet job on me and my career ends, those are the kinds of things that make me go ‘hmmm.’ I’m only angry because my career is ending on this kind of a note. When you’re deemed a racist, there’s no escape, because you can’t say ‘well I can prove that I’m not a racist. You can’t prove that you’re not a racist. Saying stupid stuff doesn’t make one a racist in my book.”
On political talk crossing into the sports world
Stigall: “If these people want to wade into politics, then put on your big boy pants and wade into it. There can’t be rules for thee and not for me. I read people that say you got too political. What is too political? You didn’t choose this. We didn’t choose this. We don’t want to be talking about politics with our athletes. They dragged us into it kicking and screaming, by the way.”
Bruno: “And I don’t talk about politics. I really don’t. I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican, I’m an independent. But the interesting thing in a lot of the great tweets that I got yesterday and I read reaction from all over including friends immediate people I’ve worked with forever, having my back, the fact that the company didn’t have my back, at this juncture, just shows you how how knee jerk the world has become. It’s like you’ve become this toxic voice that all of a sudden has no place. And I’m not looking for another job. I realized after all these years, 50 years of doing this at the highest levels, I guess the thing that bothers me the most Chris is that, you know, I have to roll out into the sunset being labeled a racist, something that you can never take away and never prove, one way or the other.”
(At the end of the interview, Tony sounded like he wasn’t enthusiastic about doing his show on Twitch, and could be done for good. Lawyers, we are told, are involved.)