Sports reporter suspended after terse exchange with Blue Jays manager

Reporter’s radio station employer and baseball team owned by the same company; questions of censorship raised
||Last Updated: 06/08/2010

A reporter for a Toronto sports radio station has been suspended after a disagreement with the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, raising concerns it was an attempt to quash impartial reporting of the team.

Mike Wilner, 41, covers the Blue Jays for The Fan 590, an all-sports programming radio station. On June 2, Wilner questioned Jays manager Cito Gaston about some of the moves he made in a late-inning loss the night before. Gaston, who had been criticized by Wilner in the past, didn’t like the line of questioning and there were some tense and awkward moments before he changed the subject.

Wilner later posted on his blog that Gaston’s responses to his questions “belittled” him. Two days later, Wilner was absent from the Blue Jays game and his normal post-game call-in show on The Fan. Wilner only said he was unexpectedly taking “the weekend off” and The Fan refused to comment on the suspension.

The Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) expressed concern about the situation, as both The Fan and the Blue Jays are both owned by the same parent company, Rogers Communications. The BBWAA said in a letter to the Blue Jays it was worried the Blue Jays were trying to “censor or intimidate” the media into avoiding negative coverage and that Wilmer was suspended by Rogers, his ultimate employer, for simply doing his job.

The baseball writers association would like to officially voice its support of the right of Mr. Wilner or any other reporter to ask challenging questions,” said BBWAA chapter president Richard Griffin, a columnist for the Toronto Star.

Wilner appeared on The Fan’s morning show on Monday, June 7 and was back at work for the Blue Jays’ game on Tuesday, June 8.

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