Josh Neighbors was fired for giving his listeners context. The Big 12 podcast host played Bob Huggins’ uncensored homophobic remarks on his show this week, and says his company fired him for violating its rules against hate speech.
“I made the conscious decision to play Bob Huggins’ comments in their entirety and without censoring the slurs that he used,” said Neighbors in a video posted Wednesday night. “I did that because I thought it was important to play and get the full context of what he had said.”
Neighbors worked for the “Locked On Podcast Network,” which was founded by Utah Jazz radio voice David Locke. Neighbors’ show, “Locked On Big 12,” launched in January 2020 and released over 600 episodes.
In the aforementioned video, Neighbors said he told his listeners that he thinks Huggins should be fired for his anti-gay comments.
“I followed that up by saying I thought what [Huggins] said was abhorrent,” said Neighbors. “I thought it was hateful and also that if I was the AD I would have fired him and I would not want somebody like that espousing those views coaching my team.”
But apparently, Neighbors’ intentions and longevity weren’t enough to save his job. At “Locked On Sports,” there doesn’t appear to be any room for context.
Earlier this week, Huggins, who coaches the West Virginia Mountaineers, called Xavier University fans a gay slur on two occasions during a radio interview.
In talking to Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham, Huggins was recounting an incident in which Xaviers fans threw rubber penises onto the court during a rivalry game.
Cunningham, who has his own ignominious history of purveying hate speech, suggested the episode happened on “transgender night.”
That quip provided Huggins with the green light to go full homophobe.
“It was a cross town shoot out,” said Huggins. “Yeah what it was was all those f*gs, those Catholic f*gs.”
He added in a transgender joke for good measure.
“They were envious they didn’t have one,” he said, apparently referring to male genitalia.
⚠️ Here’s the audio of Bob Huggins calling Xavier fans “Catholic f--s” during an appearance on Bill Cunningham’s WLW radio show in Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/JTftGx9rQE— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 8, 2023
On Wednesday, West Virginia announced Huggins will be suspended for the first three games of the 2023-24 season, and his salary will be reduced by $1 million (he’ll still bank roughly $3.1 million).
That’s right: a podcast host who played Huggins’ remarks lost his job, whereas the coach, who didn’t even mention LGBTQ people in his apology, got a slap on the wrist.
That’s absurd. As Neighbors explained, he was trying to make a larger point.
“I was obviously not using the hate speech, I was trying to combat it and say it’s terrible and awful and should not happen,” he said. “To play it and give the full context to give the folks a chance to hear it all, I did make the choice to play that.”
It’s stunning that Locke, a broadcast veteran, doesn’t seem to understand the importance of intention.
“It was a very difficult conversation,” said Neighbors. “I understand they have their rules. I might disagree with them, but there is a zero-tolerance policy on hate speech whether you are decrying it or using it. That is their prerogative.”
While that’s true, firing Neighbors was the wrong choice. Here’s hoping “Locked On Sports” reverses its asinine decision.
Canning somebody for providing his listeners with context is a horrible look.