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Boston radio host suspended over ethnic slur against ESPN’s Mina Kimes

ESPN's Mina Kimes (ESPN)
5 min

A Boston sports radio host said Thursday that he’s been suspended without pay after he made an ethnic slur on-air directed at ESPN personality Mina Kimes that sparked online backlash and a public rebuke from the network.

Chris Curtis, an executive producer and on-air personality for WEEI, was on “The Greg Hill Show” on Tuesday when the hosts were talking about a proposal in Boston that would ban miniature bottles of alcohol, which are sometimes known as “nips.” But when Curtis was asked to rank his favorite “nips,” he took it in a much darker direction, as the term is also a slur used against people of Japanese descent.

“I’d probably go Mina Kimes,” said Curtis, referencing ESPN’s star NFL personality who is of Korean descent on her mother’s side.

Video of the incident spread online Wednesday, and ESPN denounced the radio host’s comments as “extremely offensive.”

Curtis apologized Thursday morning and said he would be suspended without pay until next Wednesday. In his apology, Curtis said that he meant to say actress Mila Kunis, who is also not of Japanese descent, instead of Kimes. (Kunis was born to a Ukrainian Jewish family.)

“I attempted to bring up Mila Kunis, which was not really that funny, [it was] sophomoric and sexist, but for reasons I don’t understand, I said Mina Kimes,’’ Curtis said on “The Greg Hill Show” before he began his suspension. “That was never the intention for me to say her name. It had nothing to do with the subject matter, and it dragged her into a controversy through no fault of her own regarding a slur and her race and it’s not at all what my intention was.”

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Ashok Sinha, a spokesperson for Audacy, WEEI’s parent company, told The Washington Post that it had “no comment and nothing to add to Chris’s on-air apology.” Before the suspension was announced, ESPN released a statement Wednesday criticizing the slur made against Kimes, who has become one of the network’s most recognizable analysts.

“There is no place for these type of hateful comments, which were uncalled for and extremely offensive,” an ESPN spokesperson said.

Kimes told The Post on Thursday that she would “let ESPN’s statement represent me as well.” While she has not directly addressed the slur made toward her, Kimes changed her Twitter profile photo to one of Kunis.

The suspension comes amid a tenuous time for Boston sports radio. Tony Massarotti, a host for 98.5 the Sports Hub, was suspended last month after he made a racist joke about Black Americans. During a Feb. 17 segment on “Felger and Mazz,” Massarotti told co-host Mike Felger that he should be suspicious of Black men who were sitting behind him. Massarotti then recounted how Felger’s car was stolen during a trip to New Orleans last year.

“I would be careful if I were you,” said Massarotti, who laughed during the segment. “Because the last time you were around a couple of guys like that, they stole your car.” Massarotti later apologized, and Beasley Media, the station’s parent company, announced that it was mandating sensitivity training for all Boston-based employees at the company.

Since she joined ESPN in 2014, Kimes, 37, has seen her profile grow in recent years as an NFL analyst, podcast host, co-star of ESPN’s “NFL Live” and a regular on “First Take.” In a Post profile last month, ESPN colleague and former NFL player Domonique Foxworth said Kimes, a football nerd, altered the landscape for not just who gets to talk about the game on TV but how it gets talked about.

“She has fundamentally changed the way sports media works,” Foxworth said.

Kimes has also been the target of trolls on social media who have lobbed sexist criticisms of her ability to talk about football since she’s a woman. She told The Post last month that she’s also had to call ESPN security to handle threats and harassment.

The slur used toward Kimes this week has a long history dating back to World War II. Slurs and caricatures against the Japanese were used as entertainment in wartime propaganda. Among the most notable examples is the 1944 Warner Bros. cartoon in which Bugs Bunny fights a caricaturized version of Japanese soldiers.


Curtis has worked in Boston sports radio since 2002, according to his WEEI biography. Before coming to WEEI in 2013, he worked at 890 ESPN and 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Curtis has faced blowback for the use of the ethnic slur this week, including from Kimes’s colleagues at ESPN.

“What are we doing here, @WEEI?” tweeted ESPN’s Sarah Spain.

Kimes also responded in her own way. In a reply to a tweet from Boston Globe columnist Chad Finn on how Audacy argued that Curtis meant to say Kunis instead of Kimes, the ESPN personality simply tweeted a photo of an exhausted Bart Simpson.

During his apology Thursday, Curtis reiterated that it was not his intention to drag Kimes into a controversy involving the ethnic slur.

“But it doesn’t matter because of the absolute chaos that my words created for someone who is just doing her job covering the NFL at ESPN,” he said. “It was something that was … there’s really no other way to put it, it was dumb and it was silly. And it’s brought a lot of things to the forefront for people that did nothing wrong.”

Ben Strauss contributed to this report.