While calling a college hoops game for the campus radio station, the aspiring broadcast professional made an off-handed joke about the team's star player possibly setting off a metal detector at the airport following the game, due to his mouth full of gold teeth.
Within a week, the broadcaster was called into the station's business offices for a closed-door meeting, where station big wigs expressed their dismay about his "racially charged" comments.
"But I didn't say anything about anyone's race," the young sportscaster explained. "He does have a mouth full of gold teeth, and I made the joke about it. But I certainly would never even think about a racial joke. He's a basketball player. His color is irrelevant."
The station's stuffy braintrust simply could not allow this kind of conduct on their air, and the broadcaster was subsequently passed over for a big station promotion. In explaining why he had not been chosen to lead the sports department, he was told that his judgement must be questioned for making such "racist" comments.
Later that semester, the sportscaster went searching for advice to an experienced radio professional at the same institution - a black professor whom he, and all others, liked and respected.
In confidence, he told her exactly what he had said on the air, in complete context.
"I didn't hear you mention anything about race," she answered. "Was there something else I missed?"
"Nope," the broadcaster lamented. "This was the one sentence that they said was racist and insensitive. And furthermore, I know guys from all different races that wear gold teeth!"
"Again, you didn't say anything about race," she concluded. "I don't see how you can take a joke about gold teeth to mean anything racial. You never mentioned race, color or ethnicity. I certainly wouldn't have been offended whatsoever."
The moral of the story? Sports broadcasters have many challenges to overcome. Regardless of your intent, the P.C. Police are always lurking just beyond that radio dial, waiting to pounce. Be ready.
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