Miss. sportswriter fired for harsh words against Cajuns

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- UL-Lafayette  fans cheer after winning the regional with Mississippi State on June 2 in Lafayette. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- UL-Lafayette fans cheer after winning the regional with Mississippi State on June 2 in Lafayette.

Lafayette called ‘worst place in America’ on radio

A Mississippi-based sports writer’s intemperate riffs on Lafayette, Cajuns and the state of Louisiana cost him his job Monday.

Matthew Stevens, who covered Mississippi State University athletics, announced on Twitter that he had been let go by the Columbus (Mississippi) Commercial Dispatch days after he complained on an Internet radio program about people in Lafayette speaking incomprehensibly and the city, in general, being “the worst place in America.”

The recording went viral, sparking a backlash and profuse mea culpas from the 29-year-old beat writer, who took to the airwaves and social media, along with speaking to fellow reporters, to apologize for his remarks. Still, on Monday he was fired.

“Unfortunately, I was terminated from The Commercial Dispatch,” he wrote on Twitter. “I accept this as a consequence for my comments & I’ll always be remorseful.”

Commercial Dispatch Executive Editor Timothy “Slim” Smith declined to elaborate on why he fired Stevens, who had been with the paper almost three years writing about Mississippi State.

“It’s an internal decision,” Smith said. He said he and other managers at the paper had given Stevens a lot of thought since last week.

Online media observer Jim Romenesko asked Smith whether Stevens deserved to be fired, given that his reporter’s remarks were the kind of shocking exaggerations typical on sports talk radio. But Smith countered that Stevens “went well beyond ‘over-the-top nonsense’ into something far more serious — bigotry.”

Stevens was gracious about his former employer on Twitter. “I want to thank The Dispatch for employing me as a sports writer,” Stevens wrote. “It was truly my pleasure. Also thank you to the readers for their loyalty.”

Stevens made his Lafayette comments last week after returning from a weekend trip where he covered the Bulldogs’ exit from the NCAA baseball tournament at a regional hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette.

UL-Lafayette beat Mississippi State in back-to-back games to win the regional.

He went on “The Full Court Press,” a talk show on Bulldogs Sports Radio, and vented.

“I’m not going to say to go as far as Brian (Hadad, another radio host) and say they’re (Cajuns) not people, but I don’t know what they are,” Stevens said.

He spent the better part of Friday apologizing for his remarks, including dialing into KPEL-FM, 96.5, in Lafayette. Stevens also spoke with The Advocate after Smith made him return an interview request.

“It’s a lesson I’ll take with me for the rest of my life,” Stevens said.

After posting a couple Tweets about his firing, as well as writing a long Facebook post, Stevens declined to comment further in a phone conversation on Monday.

“I just don’t have any more to say about this,” he said.

Staff writer Billy Gunn contributed to this report.