Published on Monday, 06 May 2013 14:12
Last week, Comcast SportsNet Chicago fired popular reporter/anchor Susannah Collins
. As per CSN policy, the network would not comment on the specific reason(s) for the dismissal. This is a story that will not quietly fade away, though.
Chicago Tribune reporter Robert Channick uncovered the truth
behind Collins' firing. The Chicago Blackhawks' owner/Chairman Rocky Wirtz sent a letter to CSN Chicago Vice President and General Manager Phil Bedella demanding her immediate removal from Blackhawks broadcasts, according to Channick, who also reprinted the letter he obtained from sources. Wirtz then forwarded that letter on to the Chicago Bulls, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Cubs. All four of those teams each own 20% of CSN Chicago.
With Wirtz effectively banning her and turning other local sports teams' ownership against her, CSN Chicago had no choice but to release her and search for a replacement.
Wirtz's anger seems to stem from Collins' split-second use of saying the word "sex" on the air instead of "success" last Tuesday night (even though she immediately corrected herself) and a handful of videos she made years before being hired by CSN Chicago (or Showtime or any of her other sports reporting jobs) in which she, as a paid actor, read and performed in some low-brow comedy bits called "Sports Nutz."
The public blow-back against both the Chicago Blackhawks and CSN Chicago for this firing continues to be very harsh, with the majority of the people upset by what is perceived as an unjustified firing.
CSN Chicago's Facebook page
is filled with countless angry postings by fans, while Collins' own Facebook page
has words of support for her and even more anger over her release. Facebook pages called "Boycott CSN" (recently removed by Facebook or its page creator) and "Bring Back Susannah Collins
" (still active) have been made, as well as somebody starting an online petition
to bring her back to her job.
Some writers have used the opportunity to bash the entire practice of all major networks that broadcast sports in using attractive females as sideline reporters. Overall, most writers have been highly and openly critical of the Susannah Collins release. The Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom was angered by the firing
, saying "Wirtz dropped an atom bomb on a lady bug." In a blog posting yesterday
, WSCR-AM's Dan Bernstein is wondering why if Susannah Collins can be fired for not being "family friendly" enough, why does the team still have on its payroll a person who has beaten his wives multiple times and said pro-Hitler statements publicly, not to mention a current player who assaulted a cab driver?
As has been pointed out many times by others, the Chicago Blackhawks never seemed to have had a problem with Collins looking sexy on camera for its predominately male TV audience, and does not have a problem with scantily clad women being on their "Ice Crew." When not scooping up ice at the United Center, that same "Ice Crew" represents the team at various public events frequently throughout the year, while looking sexy and showing plenty of exposed skin in their team-approved uniforms. Many of those women are Chicago-area models who have done some less-than-family-friendly modeling poses in the recent past, as well. It makes the decision to release Collins for accidentally saying the word "sex" and for some old comedy videos with mild innuendo in them seem rather hypocritical.
This far from the first time that the Chicago Blackhawks organization have flexed their muscles and forced CSN Chicago to terminate an employee. In 2009, CSN Chicago was made to release highly-regarded news reporter Josh Mora, after he reported some Blackhawks news a day before before the team was ready to release that news publicly. Mora was taken off Blackhawks broadcasts for the following season, and soon after, his contract was not renewed. After hearing the news of Collins' firing, Mora sent out a message to her on his Twitter account that said
: "@susannahcollins Hey. From a guy who has been exactly where you are -- you have my complete sympathies. Hope we'll meet someday." Another CSN Chicago employee, producer/contributor Jen Patterson was fired in 2010 after the Blackhawks found out she was dating one of their players. (Patterson and now-former player Nick Boynton have since married.)
While the Chicago Blackhawks and CSN Chicago certainly had the right to dismiss Susannah Collins for whatever legal reason they chose, that decision appears to have been a public relations nightmare and may haunt both organizations for quite a while.
CRM has reached out to both Ms. Collins and her representatives for an interview. She is choosing to lay low and not make any comments for the time being.
3:30pm: Updated with corrected and additional information.