A New Orleans talk radio station says it’s investigating after someone tweeted an anti-gay slur at one of its own hosts, sparking a barrage of criticism.
Seth Dunlap, the openly gay host of the WWL-AM’s weeknight sports show, The Last Lap with Seth Dunlap, recently wrote an open letter, which he posted to his Facebook page, to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees addressing Brees’ relationship to the conservative activist group Focus on the Family, and why LGBTQ people were disappointed with Brees for partnering with the anti-LGBTQ group.
Brees recently appeared in a video touting Focus on the Family’s “Bring Your Bible to School Day” event, but received a significant amount of backlash from the LGBTQ community, who objected to Focus on the Family’s past anti-LGBTQ activism.
Brees eventually tweeted out a video attempting to clear the air, saying he was not anti-LGBTQ and did not support any efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights.
Dunlap posted a link to his Facebook post on Twitter, writing: “This is tough, but staying true to myself means empathizing & educating with the platform I have. My Open Letter to @DrewBrees about why his ‘Focus on the Family’ video, and his reaction today, was hurtful to many people, including me an openly gay man.”
“I remained silent after the initial video you did for FoF. I empathized with your schedule, and assumed that members of your PR team and agency approached you about doing a video advocating that students embrace their faith, without your team fully explaining to you FoF’s background and beliefs,” Dunlap wrote in his letter.
“Expecting you to be fully aware of the history and background of every single business you endorse is a bit absurd. That would be like expecting me to fully vet the beliefs and background of every person I interview on my nightly sports talk show. It’s impossible. I even defended you to many people who approached me concerned about your partnership with FoF.”
Dunlap says he believes Brees didn’t know about Focus on the Family’s anti-LGBTQ actions, which he details in the post.
But he also asks Brees to understand how it may seem to LGBTQ people who face discrimination and animus in their daily lives — providing examples from his own life as evidence.
“I’m asking for reflection on how your words and your seeming-embrace of an odious, bigoted organization can cause a vulnerable and constantly-attacked community to recoil,” he wrote. “If I can offer unsolicited advice; take the time to directly distance yourself from these hateful people. I’m sorry you’ve been subjected to vicious hate and repulsive attacks the past few days, many of which have crossed the line of decency. Know that doesn’t represent the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, just like we hope your endorsement of a promotional vehicle for the FRC and FoF doesn’t represent your true values. Many of your fans await that decent response.”
But someone with access to the WWL-AM Twitter account was apparently unimpressed with Dunlap’s letter, or perhaps the fact that he admitted to being gay.
In response to a tweet about the New Orleans Saints’ season opener on Monday night — one in which Dunlap wrote: “Which of these 5 overreactions isn’t actually an overreaction?” — the station Twitter account responded: “That you’re a fag.”
The station eventually deleted the tweet, but it was captured in a screenshot and shared with other sports journalists, who intensely criticized WWL-AM for failing to back their own employee and for not taking down the tweet until much later, reports The Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based newspaper.
WWL later issued a statement saying: “We are aware of a tweet that went out today from the WWL account. The content of the tweet is categorically offensive and abhorrent to the station. We are actively investigating this incident and will take swift and appropriate action once we determine how this occurred.”
We are aware of a tweet that went out today from the WWL account. The content of the tweet is categorically offensive and abhorrent to the station. We are actively investigating this incident and will take swift and appropriate action once we determine how this occurred.
— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) September 11, 2019
Dunlap declined to comment about the offensive tweet to media, but did tweet out one response, writing: “I’m just going to really enjoy knowing somebody is exceptionally upset I get to talk sports every night for a living.”
I'm just going to really enjoy knowing somebody is exceptionally upset I get to talk sports every night for a living pic.twitter.com/z5zlvfZRH0
— Seth Dunlap (@sethdunlap) September 10, 2019
On Thursday, Dunlap shared on Twitter that he will be taking a leave of absence from the radio station, saying he was making a “deeply personal” decision. He thanked the “wonderful people” who work at WWL-AM and its parent company, Entercom, noting that many had made their support known over the past few days.
Thanks to the many people inside and outside the organization who have shown their support over the past couple of days. There are many people working at WWL and Entercom who are wonderful people, and have been unfairly swept up in this.
— Seth Dunlap (@sethdunlap) September 12, 2019
But Dunlap also tweeted that he was “not going away,” and would speak about the incident in the future.
“Most importantly, to all of the LGBTQ+ people out there please know that your voices are being heard. I have tried hard to not make this about me because, truthfully, it’s not. It’s about a culture of hate and bigotry that has proliferated recently in our society,” he wrote.
“I look forward to speaking more about this incident soon. Don’t worry, I’m not going away,” he added. “I am just taking time to decide what’s best for my career, but also for my life away from the microphone.”
I look forward to speaking more about this incident soon. Don't worry, I'm not going away. I am just taking time to decide what's best for my career, but also for my life away the microphone. ✌️❤️
— Seth Dunlap (@sethdunlap) September 12, 2019