Shortly after 6:30 PM on Thursday, a statement from Rogers Media president Rick Brace was read on air on the company’s flagship radio station by Bob McCown, breaking the news that Gregg Zaun has been terminated from his job as in-game analyst on Sportsnet Blue Jays broadcasts due to inappropriate behaviour.
I was not tuned in when the announcement was read, but Andrew Pinsent of News957 in Halifax was, and provides us the details:
— Andrew Pinsent (@957Pinsent) November 30, 2017
A Sportsnet report adds that “there were no allegations of physical or sexual assault.”
Brace’s statement continues: “This type of behaviour completely contradicts our standards and our core values. We believe in a professional workplace where all employees feel comfortable and respected. We are grateful to our employees who spoke with us and we will take every measure to protect their privacy.”
I would congratulate Sportsnet here for their quick action after word of Zaun’s inappropriate conduct was brought to their attention, and they are certainly saying the right sort of things here, but does this turn of events surprise?
It was around five years ago, in December 2012, when Zaun — then a Sportsnet employee (he was hired in March of 2011) — caused a stir when he sent out a since-deleted tweet that read:
The rich girls from TO must be home from college. Tubby, unfortunately manish, and super stuck up are all at Hemingways tonight
Even in the far less woke world of 2012, Zaun’s offensive words made waves, and their way to Deadspin.
There are also stories like these:
Sadly, the Gregg Zaun news doesn’t really come as a shock to me. Six years ago, he asked for my email over Twitter DM. He then sent me, a 21-year-old girl he’d never met, an invitation to a Grey Cup “Party” in Vancouver.
— Katie Lawrence Balloch (@BlueJayGal) December 1, 2017
It turned out to be a graphically-worded invitation to essentially, an orgy. It had specific rules: no social media (what happens here, stays here), no significant others, cheaters welcome, “intoxication is not optional”, and more.— Katie Lawrence Balloch (@katielawrenceb) December 1, 2017
I was stunned, creeped out, and a little nauseous. I did not attend this “event”, and it made me wonder how many other young girls he had sent this to. His reputation was ruined for me from that point on.— Katie Lawrence Balloch (@katielawrenceb) December 1, 2017
And the thing is, it’s not that Zaun occasionally bumbled into inappropriateness, the self-styled “manalyst” cultivated a certain image when it comes to how he views women.
Sure, that picture on its own is a long way from a fireable offence (the tweets, however, certainly could have been). And anecdotally, I’d say that this stuff has seemed to become less an element of Zaun’s image of late (though, full disclosure, as someone who watches games on MLB.tv rather than cable, Zaun’s segments were cut almost entirely out of my viewing experience). In recent years Zaun has married and he and his wife have had a child. He’s appeared a little more domestic — outwardly, at least.
But I’ve also had people from inside Rogers suggest to me that Zaun getting fired for acting inappropriately was more likely a matter of “when” rather than “if.” Which is sad — sad that anybody had to endure that kind of behaviour for as long as it took for our world to finally reach this moment when the women who bravely came forward could actually feel they could say something, that they would be heard, and that they wouldn’t risk their jobs or their status at work to do so.
Where Sportsnet goes from here with respect to Zaun’s replacement obviously remains to be seen, but one hopes it’s with as strong a commitment to having a professional workplace as they claim. One also hopes that men — all men, but especially those in a so thoroughly male dominated industry such as this — who see and recognize this stuff are genuinely beginning to understand the way their silence enables it, too. Whether we liked or will miss Zaun’s on air work or not, we can all at least be pleased that we’re living in a moment where the women who came forward were believed. It’s a very different world than some people are used to, but at least in some ways it feels like it’s moving in the right direction.