ESPN Syracuse personality Brent Axe was taken off the air and fired by Galaxy Media Partners for being too critical of the university's sports teams. And you don't have to take his word for it because his former boss came right out and said as much.
Galaxy President and CEO Ed Levine said he fired Axe because he believes the content of Axe’s show had become too negative toward Syracuse University sports.
“I had a problem with the content of the show,” Levine said. “I’m an SU fan. I’m sorry, but I bleed Orange. I’m not going to apologize for that, and I think a fair reading of the Orange is appropriate. I understand (Galaxy has) a business relationship (with Syracuse), that Coach (Jim) Boeheim and I are personal friends and he’s an investor in my company.
“I understand and acknowledge all of that. We’ve called it pretty fair, and I would argue we’ve been tough on SU when the on-field or off-field events warrant it. I just think over the past six months it took a different tone and became overly dark and negative. I don’t think that’s what Syracuse fans want to hear.”
It's a bold move to acknowledge that there are both personal and business relationships with Boeheim and yet brush away the impact they had on the situation. To hear Levine tell it, this all could have been avoided if Axe had covered the hometown team more like the Buffalo Bills, a franchise who is not in business with Galaxy.
“Brent is a full-time employee of Syracuse.com,” Levine said. “I believe Syracuse.com has an agenda in regards to Syracuse University. I don’t know what that agenda is, but that agenda was manifesting itself on our airwaves. We have no agenda. We’re in business with Syracuse University, but we call it straight down the line. What I said to Brent was I wish he covered Syracuse University with the same affection that he covered the Buffalo Bills.”
Axe, who had appeared on ESPN Radio Syracuse since 2014, wouldn't have done anything different.
“I had a responsibility to give an honest, fair and thorough opinion to my audience,” Axe said. “I certainly wasn’t perfect, but I don’t regret anything about the approach of the show. We put listeners on the air, and we gave them the opportunity to say what they needed to say. I don’t have any regrets.”
Boeheim last week retired after a season rife with disappointment and regrettable public commentary. Struggling football and lacrosse teams combined to make this arguably the worst athletic year in the school's history.
In short, things have been bad and there's not a lot to be thankful for or reasons to don pom-poms and lead cheers.
Axe has been the recipient of a profound outpouring from those in and outside the Syracuse community.
Setting aside the fairness of this particular decision, it's worth pointing out that it sets up the person who takes Axe's airtime, and everyone else working at the station, up for failure. Anyone listening now will know that this backdrop is potentially shaping the content of what they hear, even if those in charge don't think that's a big deal.