The Word Network CEO Kevin Adell is under fire after sharing a racially insensitive meme to his former Black employee, Bishop George Blooomer.
He was depicted wearing a fur coat like a pimp; black pastors and entertainment figures were surrounding him in the meme. The Word Network is targets Black audiences, so naturally, the message and joke didn’t go over well.
In response, Black clergymen are calling to a boycott of the Detroit-based television station. A petition on Change.org already has over 3,800 signatures.
“This image is repulsive as it utilizes racial stereotypes and denigrates community leaders in the process. It is doubly disturbing because your station’s marketing materials promote the Word Network and the 910-AM radio station as home to Black voices,” the Detroit NABJ said in a statement released this week. “Being complicit in sharing racist materials is both offensive and a betrayal to the audience base you court and claim to support.”
For that, Adell is considering legal action against the group, who also demanded an apology and diversity training, for defamation.
“I didn’t create it,” Adell said. “I had nothing to do with this meme.”
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According to reports, Adell says he shared the meme with Bloomer to make him aware of its existence.
“To say that I need diversity training, to say that I need to apologize, apologize for something I didn’t do?… Why would I apologize for something I didn’t do?” he insisted, adding that it was the general manager of 910-AM who first shared it with him.
Pastor Jamal Bryant noted that when he was approached about the boycott of the network he thought about many things, including the fact that 147 of the network’s 150 employees are black. He further pointed out that David Sheffield, the network’s general manager, a black man who just turned 40, “is the youngest president of any network, secular or sacred.”
“I said now, my mentor, Rev. Al Sharpton, is on the radio station owned by the Word Network Monday through Friday from 3 to 6,” he said, noting how the network is now in correctional facilities reaching people with the Gospel. “The epiphany dawned on me yesterday while I am sitting in the pulpit of Martin Luther King Jr. The Spirit said to me, Jamal, you are in Montgomery, Alabama, the home of the Montgomery bus boycott. We are the masters of boycotts. What do you learn from us? And what I learned from the Montgomery bus boycotts is you don’t have a boycott without an ask,” he said.
Bryant said even though he knows Adell was wrong and Bloomer is owed an apology, he urged black preachers and black businesses to come up with a solution to buy the network rather than simply pushing for a boycott. If they are unable to buy the network, he said, they should purchase shares so they can make a difference.
The petition on Change.org states that Bloomer quit The Word Network because of the offensive meme, but Adell says Bloomer quit because he wanted more air time and it wasn’t feasible without his willingness to adjust his show as suggested by the network’s staff.
Adell believes Bloomer is using the meme controversy “to get support to hopefully make changes so he could get back on the air.” He has agreed to meet with the president of Detroit NABJ to discuss the situation in depth.
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