Photo Credit: Sportsnet

Gregg Zaun Fired From Sportsnet For ‘Inappropriate Conduct’

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:

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:

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.

    • Barry

      It’ll be interesting to hear how Campbell responds. He’s described Zaun as his “best friend.” Chances are, he’ll say something vague and corporate, but this will surely be upsetting to him. (For his sake, I hope he was in the dark about the problems and not enabling Zaun in any way.)

  • Will Murray

    Glad he’s gone and full credit to the brave women who came forward. While this shit still happens throughout society, men in positions of power seem to still think they’re bulletproof. I’m honestly stunned it took them this long to rid themselves of someone whose whole shtick was toxic masculinity. You have to wonder how long his behaviour was tolerated because he was so connected (sadly) to the brand of how Sportsnet chose to cover the team. It reminds me a bit of the Ghomeshi situation (not the specific allegations, mind you, but as a recognizable star for a media company). The stories from the inside of the CBC of what he got away with just because of how big an advert he was for the company was sickening. I doubt Zaun wielded that kind of clout at Rogers, but he definitely had a following that lapped up his nonsense, and likely sat around during pre and post-game shows. If Rogers thought he was in any way driving what they could charge for an ad or the revenue (whatever it may be) from clicks and page views, I’m guessing his leash was pretty long.

  • Jays of Thunder

    It’s a good day to be a Blue Jays fan. I’m going to work hard to remember Allison Gordon being honoured today more than Zaun being, by all accounts rightfully, kicked out. For more dedicated, professional women to have a place, belligerent misogynists like Zaun have to go. Zaun’s strain of analysis held so much of the worst of fandom… policing joy except in cases of winning the big prize and rationalizing anger over almost anything.

    • The Danalyst

      “Toxic masculinity”? Are you trolling? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? People complained that Zaun did something inappropriate behind the scenes so they fired him? Did Zaun admit to anything or is there any proof? I’d like to know more about this situation, he may be guilty but what exactly is he guilty of and is it worth be fired over?

      • Matty

        Pretty sure there isn’t a conspiracy to get Greg zaun. Multiple women came forward, what else do you need?

        And your employment is not tried in a court of law so the innocent until proven guilty thing doesn’t fly

      • Jays of Thunder

        Not trolling. I don’t think I can post links, but here is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page for the term “toxic masculinity”. It describes a lot of what is apparent in Zaun’s behaviour: “The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects. Such “toxic” masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.”

        Innocent until proven guilty is a standard used in criminal court proceedings where the burden of proof is “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”. Workplace harassment has a civil court burden of proof of a “balance of probabilities.”

        Here’s a relevant section of policy from the Ontario Human Rights Code: “Proving a case on a “balance of probabilities” is a civil burden of proof, meaning that there is evidence to support the allegation that the comments or conduct “more likely than not” took place, and that the behaviour was sexual harassment within the meaning of the Code.

        Sexual harassment does not often occur in full public view. Since there are often no witnesses or material evidence to these comments or conduct, issues of credibility often arise in sexual harassment claims.[152] Human rights tribunals have accepted that it is difficult sometimes to make a finding based on credibility only, but acknowledge that tribunals often have to rely on subjective evidence presented by the parties involved.

        Repeated conduct directed at one person is not needed. A pattern of conduct directed at several female employees may also be sexual harassment.[153] Where credibility is at issue, similar fact evidence[154] may be introduced to show that a pattern of behaviour might have occurred. Similar fact evidence could include testimony from others who state that they have been treated in the same way by the alleged harasser.”

        Based on the informal reports out there, it seems likely that several female employees making similar complaints that suggest a “balance of probabilities” fits the Zaun scenario. There’s every reason to think that in a company as big as Rogers, with a high profile employee, the process that led to Zaun’s dismissal looks a lot like the process you say you’d like to see. It’s unlikely to become public information, which may not satisfy your concern, but the statement released by Rogers certainly suggest a decision reached through due process.

        It’s not suggested at this point, that I can see, that Zaun is going to be charged with a crime, only that his standard of behaviour was sufficient to have his employment terminated.

      • El Cabeza

        You can pretty much assume that there’s enough evidence here that this behaviour “more likely than not” took place. If that wasn’t the case, we’ll soon hear about Zaun filing a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. You’d be better served believing the women here as your default and not coming off as a sexual harassment sympathizer.

  • The Danalyst

    I think Gregg Zaun is a tremendous talent and I’m not happy that he’ll be gone. I’d like to know exactly what he did that got him fired. Did he commit sexual assault? He’s a good guy, I don’t think he’d ever do something like that, I think he probably got fired for being flirtatious, there are some psychotic feminists out there who will try to get a man fired just because they woke up on the wrong side of bed. #FreeZaun

  • lukewarmwater

    Well Zaun’s behaviour likely has brought Mr. excitement, Mr. personality, Mr. knowledge himself Pat Tabler to be the side kick for Jamie. Lord what did Jay fans do to deserve this.

    • The Humungus

      Tabby the studio analyst is so much better than Tabby the colour guy. I’d be OK if this was the change. Although I’d like to see more Morneau (if he’s actually retired).

          • The Humungus

            I wouldn’t be surprised of Schulman is on most, if not all, of the home broadcasts. He’s essentially finished with ESPN Baseball (citing a desire to spend more time at home with his new wife and teenage sons). Then they just have to find someone for the road trips.

  • The Humungus

    For all the loathing I have for Gregg Zaun, I really hate to see it go down like this.

    I hate it because it’s bullshit that he got away with it as long as he did (which had to be a period of time given the report that it was multiple female employees).

    I hate it for the women who needed workplace culture to undergo a massive shift forward, as it has the last six weeks, in order to feel comfortable saying “hey, this isn’t right, and I’m going to tell someone”.

    I hate it because there are goons spouting off on ” innocent until proven guilty” bullshit, as though a workplace is a court of law. News tip, it’s not. The burden of proof is lower in a private workplace. Which is good, because most of the time, stuff like this gets pushed out of court on technical loopholes rather than bad evidence.

    I loathed Gregg Zaun. But I wanted him to get fired on his own merits. This situation is bad. It’s bad for the women who had to suffer in silence as long as they did. It’s bad for his wife and son, who now have to deal with the public side of having a spouse/father who’s looked at as being a totally different kind of jerk than he was before yesterday. Lastly (and certainly least) it’s bad for Zaun, who was, at times, a hell of an analyst, when he wasn’t doing shtick, who will never work in the industry again no matter how much he learns and grows as a person from this.

    • Barry

      This is an excellent post. I tried several takes on a reply to it that voiced my agreement, but they all just repeated what you have said so well.

      The only thing I’ll add is that the positive from this and the other exposures that are going on of late is that so many of the women who have had these situations forced upon them are now feeling like they are safe to speak out, and as long as that continues, there’s a chance that the culture that has led to people like Zaun will finally change.

    • fred2

      Great post. But I wish I shared your confidence that Zaun will never work in the industry again. We are currently seeing the rehabilitation of Mel Gibson, a notorious racist, anti-semitic, spousal-abuser. “In July 2010, Gibson had been recorded during a phone call with Oksana Grigorieva suggesting that if she got “raped by a pack of n______s,” she would be to blame” (Source: Wikipedia).

      What does one need to do to be unredeemable? I doubt Zaun comes close to qualifying.

      • Barry

        I can only speculate, but I think there is a difference between a Hollywood star and a guy like Zaun. I have no idea if Gibson has rebounded or not — I don’t pay much attention to him; it’s certainly shameful if his career is not completely ruined, given what a complete piece of shit he proved himself to be. But he’s a guy Hollywood would give a second chance, because they’re money-loving assholes and he had a long history of being a huge box-office draw.

        I think Zaun differs in that he’s really just a dime-a-dozen analyst. I don’t believe many analysts are a particularly huge ratings draw. Baggage like Zauns will likely be a huge deterrent. In hiring him, an employer would have to explain their decision; why would they put themselves through that with Zaun when there are many retired ball players who would love doing the same job?

        Maybe I’m undervaluing the ratings impact of analysts. Or maybe I’m underestimating Zaun’s worth to a network. But I feel as though an analyst is often a warm body occupying a seat; maybe they’re more valuable than that, but I don’t think they’re so valuable that an employer would want the headache that comes with a Zaun.

  • Gavin Belson

    Can you imagine what would happen if someone used the term “toxic femininity? ” Extreme self reliance is one of the descriptors I see used to describe it. That trait is in fact quite a useful one. Far more useful than extreme reliance on others. Let’s not start conflating masculinity with boorish behavior . There are plenty of us out there who are masculine yet don’t indulge in petulant and abusive behavior. Zaun being an arse is because Zaun is an arse .

    • Jays of Thunder

      I guess I’d want to ask them what they mean by that term, but I’d be skeptical that they’re operating in good faith.

      Kinda feels like you’re not addressing the word “extreme” in extreme self-reliance. If someone believes they are the best person for every job and unable to ask for help, well that’s probably not the best trait.

    • GrumblePup

      No one is conflating masculinity with boorish behaviour.
      Theyre conflating a type of masculinity that insists (or implies) they are better than women. And that is toxic.

    • Barry

      Zaun being an arse is because he has lived in a culture that has allowed him to feel comfortable being an arse. That’s an important awareness that is behind the term “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity isn’t about men becoming bad by being too masculine, it’s about men becoming bad by existing in a toxic culture that has gone relatively unchecked for too long.

      The word “toxic” isn’t used to imply that masculinity is itself problematic — it’s used to describe a type of masculinity that IS problematic.

    • Norm Kelly

      Prior to these latest revelations I thought Zaun was a harmless goof, now I see his act was indeed not an act but a series of strongly held views. The last few weeks have shown that you really don’t know what a person is all about just because they appear on TV and if they display a “broish” persona there is a good chance they repeat those broish behaviors in real life.

  • mtg11

    Too bad. I enjoyed his segments, but he can’t be doing whatever it was that he did.

    I think this is still just the tip of the iceberg. Many more will, rightfully, fall.

    • Jays of Thunder

      The context is important, no? I mean, we don’t know that this scenario had a role in Zaun’s dismissal. But player contracts contain morals clauses, and I wouldn’t doubt that prominent media folks have them too. The outsized rewards of these very public positions require a high standard of behaviour because the risk to the organization is so great.

    • Cecilrosa

      He broke the company harassment policy by making inappropriate comments and e-mails. Sportnet’s HR department investigated this and found the women to be correct and he was fired. It’s a pretty straight forward issue, Zaun did nothing illegal but did break company policy which is a fireable offence.

  • lukewarmwater

    Zaun truly dug his own grave with his putrid behaviour. I was intrigued with an interview the other night of the liberal party president Stephen LeDrew who had the audacity to actually be interviewed by the evil right wing Fox News and their journalist Tucker Calrson. Poor Stephen was hopeless in the debate as he defended Canada as a country where freedom of thought and expression are enshrined in Canadian law. Ironically C.T.V. suspended him for a week for having the audacity to express his mind and opinion to an American broadcasting system. Shame on Stephen for actually having the nerve to be politcally correct which he truly was only to be suspended by C.T.V.
    Reminds me of when the great ethics specialist Margaret Sommerville almost had her special doctorate degree at Waterloo university taken away for having the audacity in her opinion that a couple namely a male and female would be preferable in raising a child. It was her opinion and quite frankly I think she is wrong, but it is an opinion apparently in 2017 going on 2018 in Canada that isn’t permisable to express an opinion like that.
    A suggestion to bloggers, journalists, posters keep your back to the wall, as you never know if the thought police are WATCHING YOU.

  • allstev

    They should have held off this announcement until later in the offseason, unless they land Ohtani, it’s gonna be tough to top shitcanning Zaun for good moves.

  • King Dong

    Meh. Rogers only did this because of the current frenzy over shitty behaviour. Otherwise, they would have swept it under the rug and ignored Zaun’s nonsense. I mean, ffs, the guy openly longed for hazing.

  • getrdone

    I really do not like Greg Zaun, but to be fired because of “comments” is a witch hunt. No actual complaints, no legal action and a guy is fired for some people just talking. Be careful anyone working there or you too could be subject of “inappropriate behavior” talk.

    • Barry

      What the fuck are you talking about? The press release specfically says there were complaints. Pay attention, for fuck sakes, instead of spouting off with ignorant apologist bullshit. You are part of the problem.

  • getrdone

    I just wish that when someone is let go on account of inappropriate behavior that there is an explanation. A couple of years ago an engineer at Hydro One was let go because of a horribly sexist phrase that him and his friends yelled at a female reporter FHRITP yet a couple of days later he was very quietly rehired and here because of complaints by female employees no further info Zaun is let go.

  • Seguaro

    Saturday’s National Post reports that Zaun was a persistent sexual harasser. Makes his sycophantic lap dog Jamie look disturbingly complicit. Fire that asshole.