WHO SENT THE TWEET?
One day after announcing a temporary leave of absence from his job at WWL Radio, sports host Seth Dunlap issued a lengthy statement about his decision through his attorney, Megan C. Kiefer — while not making it clear whether or not he was stepping down.
"Living as an openly gay man can be difficult. Living as an openly gay man in the Deep South is even more difficult," the statement began. "Living as an openly gay man in the Deep South with a career in sports broadcasting, a career field that is traditionally highly homophobic, is incomprehensibly challenging. While I had developed emotional armor throughout my life, that armor was shattered earlier this week when my sexuality became the focus of local and national news headlines as a result of a hateful and homophobic Twitter attack from the official Twitter account of my employer."
WWL Radio's official Twitter account was used by someone to direct a gay slur at the sports talk show host Tuesday.
Dunlap had tweeted a link to a post he wrote about five overreactions to results from the first week of the National Football League’s 2019 regular season and asked which of those wasn’t actually an overreaction.
Someone logged into WWL Radio’s verified Twitter account and retweeted Dunlap — who is gay — and said, “That you’re a fag.”
Minutes later, the tweet was deleted from the station’s account. But it didn’t vanish before many people screen-captured the tweet, ensuring the story went national overnight in sports circles.
Kiefer, an attorney who has worked on LGBT issues, wouldn't comment on whether Dunlap planned to take legal action against WWL Radio down the road.
"Seth reached out to me ... to help him navigate this intense attention coming from local and national media solely due to his position as a gay man in this heterosexually-dominated sports world," Kiefer said. "He's very affected by this, and that's where our focus is right now: to send a message to everyone that this is not OK, this is intolerable, and if there's any LGBTQ people struggling, that they're not alone." Kiefer said Dunlap intended "to stand up for what is right. ... Categorically, this hate speech is unacceptable at the workplace or anywhere."
Kiefer declined comment on WWL Radio's investigation, other than to say that she was unaware if the station had yet identified the person responsible for the tweet.
Dunlap’s statement comes as station management has been investigating current and past employees who have had access to the Twitter account. They're looking to determine who sent the offensive tweet Tuesday from an iPhone, a move that set off a controversy that has lasted all week.
It is not clear if that investigation has wrapped up, when it may conclude or if it has identified any suspects.
Days before the tweet, Dunlap had written a lengthy Facebook post about the difficulties he’d faced working in sports media as a gay man. That post was an open letter to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who at that point had been ensnared in his own controversy by appearing in a video that was created by Focus on the Family — whose anti-LGBTQ stances are well-documented — to promote Oct. 3 as “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
Hours after the slur toward Dunlap appeared on the station’s account, WWL Radio said it was “categorically offensive and abhorrent.” The station also promised an internal investigation which would result in “swift and appropriate action once we determine how this occurred.”
One day later, WWL Senior Vice President Kevin Cassidy sent an internal memo expressing support for Dunlap. The station’s management didn’t issue any other statements, however, saying it wasn’t allowed to speak until parent company Entercom investigated. Hosts had since discussed the incident on their shows but refrained from giving updates on where the investigation into the tweet stood.
Dunlap hosted his evening show, “The Last Lap With Seth Dunlap,” on Tuesday night, tweeting, “I’m just going to really enjoy knowing somebody is exceptionally upset I get to talk sports every night for a living.”
But that was the last time he was on the air. He took the next night off, saying he wanted to “reflect and decompress” after being overwhelmed by the reaction to the tweet from a day earlier.
"Many people had asked why I chose to take a leave of absence from my duties on-air, believing that I was ‘letting bigotry win’," he wrote in his statement. "This isn’t about winning or losing to me. Rather, it is a painful step that I had to take to step away from a job that I love for my emotional and mental well-being." — KEVIN ALLMAN & RAMON ANTONIO VARGAS
‘Music for Mental Health’ Sept. 19 at Gasa Gasa
In Wilco’s 1999 song “She’s a Jar,” there’s a line that goes: “When I forget how to talk, I sing."
Kathryn Rose Wood, the music therapist and singer-songwriter behind New Orleans' annual Music for Mental Health benefit concert, said that’s the idea behind the event — connecting and reaching people through song and helping them find the means to express themselves and seek help.
“Oftentimes, people don't know or can't find the words to say how they feel or what they want to say, but they can point out a song that describes it or sounds like the feeling,” Wood said.
The third iteration of the concert is Friday, Sept. 20 at Gasa Gasa (during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month) and includes performances by Kristin Diable, Spirit McIntyre, Dominic Minix, Assata Renay and Paul Sanchez. Performers will sit on stage, alternate songs, share stories behind the music and talk about their mental health struggles.
“The storytelling piece brings out the purpose to the music and shows how music is powerful and helpful in coping, managing and communicating,” Wood said. “We've had some really powerful experiences in the past few years, performers who have kind of gone deeper than I think some people go in therapy, sharing their stories of why they wrote songs or what feeling they were in at that time. You're trying to be really vulnerable and honest.”
Mental health resources will be available on site for event attendees, including the North American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, Project Fleur-de-lis and the Brett Thomas Doussan (BTD) Foundation.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Louisiana and the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24. The department also estimates that there are more than 25 suicide attempts for every death by suicide in the state, with the number increasing to between 100 and 200 attempts for 15- to-24-year-olds.
Proceeds from the event will benefit a new youth-focused outreach program called “Music for Mental Health: In Schools” in partnership with school-based mental health program Project Fleur-de-lis. The outreach program stemmed from wanting to increase the availability of mental health services outside the concert.
Wood started the concert series in 2017 following the 2015 suicide of her 19-year-old brother, Preston, to suicide. Music helped her through the grieving process and gave her a way to cope with her own suicidal ideation. “Songwriting kind of kept me stable,” she said. — KAYLEE POCHE
Mia X to teach hip-hop classes at Loyola
New Orleans rapper Mia Young, known as Mia X, wears many hats. She’s a songwriter, an actress, an author, a chef and most recently — one of Loyola University New Orleans’ newest faculty additions. Young will teach hip-hop-related courses at the university.
Last week, Young posted a photo of her Loyola ID on Instagram to her more than 300,000 followers. In the caption, she described becoming emotional when she first got the ID, as it reminded her of her own time in school.
“It may seem silly to some but I cried when I got this. I remember telling my classmates that I was going to be a rapper and them laughing while my teacher twisted up her face at me,” Young wrote. “Who would have thought that I would indeed become a rapper make a career out of what I truly LOVE.”
Melissa Weber, also known as DJ Soul Sister, recommended Young for the position. Weber was named curator of Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archive last month.
Young rose to national fame in the 1990s when Master P signed her to his label No Limit Records. She was the label’s first female artist.
She broke into the Billboard charts with her second studio album, “Unlady Like,” in 1997 and made them again with the release of her third album, “Mama Drama,” the following year. The album featured Master P, Snoop Dogg and other prominent artists from No Limit.
"31 years after high school I am teaching Hip Hop," Young wrote. "A genre of music that the world believed was a fad at a major university in my city!!!!! Thank you God and I promise to do my best." — KAYLEE POCHE