The Whole Steven Cohen BusinessBy: Daryl | May 22nd, 2009
To be 100% honest… I’ve been avoiding blogging about this whole Steven Cohen business. Mostly because it’s all so very unpleasant.
Hopefully you’ve read about it on other blogs, where it’s been covered pretty well. But if not, here’s a quick summary with plenty of links that go into more detail.
OK then, from the top:
Steven Cohen is the host of the Los Angeles based radio show World Soccer Daily, and the TV show Fox Football Fone-In (which is basically just a radio show with cameras, really). Back in April, Cohen stated on his radio show that Liverpool fans who showed up without tickets were to blame for the Hillsborough Disaster, despite the Taylor Report finding no such thing.
EPL Talk were determined not to let him get away with that, and drew attention to his claims. Cue outrage. But that wasn’t the end of it.
The Liverpool Supporters Club New York (who were understandably offended) put pressure on Cohen’s sponsors, which – because soccer is still a relatively niche market in the US – actually worked. Fado’s Irish pubs, World Soccer Shop and Four Four Two magazine all pulled their sponsorship.
Less encouraging was the fact that Cohen received the inevitable death threats, which only served to make him a more sympathetic character and led to a couple of pro-Cohen articles being published in mainstream(ish) media.
<Quick bit of opinion> There’s a legitimate debate about free speech to be had here, and certainly death threats are over the line. But free speech works both ways. I’ve listened to WSD in the past, and the reason it’s been relatively successful is Cohen’s willingness to say controversial things. In many way, that’s how talk radio works. Just ask Rush Limbaugh.
But if you’re going to say something offensive enough that the group you’ve offended calls for a boycott of your business, then either be prepared for that boycott or do everyone a favour and think before you open your mouth.
After holding out for as long as he could, Cohen apologized earlier this week. Whether he’s really sorry, or just apologizing due to pressure from his sponsors is a matter of opinion. Last – but by no means least – Liverpool FC issued an official statement today condemning Cohen and his claims.
And that’s pretty much that.
Despite his apology, no one would be too surprised if Steven Cohen’s broadcasting career hit a rather large sticky patch in the near future. He’s offended a lot of people (not just Liverpool fans) and received a lot of negative publicity which has brought his reputation as a broadcaster into what could rightly be called disrepute. Whether his possible decline represents setback or evolution for soccer coverage in America is your call. But I’m not planning to revisit this whole business ever again if it can be at all avoided.
Click here to download the final Taylor Report on the Hillborough Disaster. Be warned, it’s in zip format.