A Houlton radio station fired two announcers for derogatory comments they made about the weight of girls’ basketball players during the station’s livestream.

WHOU-FM owner Fred Grant said he fired Jim Carter and Steve Shaw on Thursday night after they completed their broadcast of a high school basketball game in Caribou. Grant said he began seeing complaints almost immediately after the announcers made their comments. Shaw, a former athletic director, and Carter, a former coach, had broadcast games for WHOU for about a month, Grant said.

Shaw worked as athletic director at Easton High School until his retirement in 2019, and in August was inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in the Legends of the Game category. Carter is a retired teacher and coach at Caribou High School, and has written three books about high school basketball in Aroostook County.

The broadcasters, who didn’t realize their microphones were on, made the derogatory remarks about players in a girls’ game between Central Aroostook and Easton that they were watching on a monitor while they prepared for their game at Caribou.

In a 40-second video posted to Twitter, the two are heard making derogatory comments about the weight of some players. One of the broadcasters was heard to say, “two girls out here extremely overweight. Awful.” Other derogatory comments were followed by laughter.

“I started getting phone calls immediately,” Grant said by phone Friday morning.

Reaction to the comments on social media was swift and universally outraged.

“I gotta say I’ve never heard anything so unprofessional as what Jim Carter and Steve Shaw said about a couple of the … players tonight, You should both be ashamed of yourselves and remove yourselves from high school basketball,” one commenter posted to WHOU’s Facebook page.

“I agree,” someone posted in a reply to that comment. “One is my granddaughter and she is totally devastated!”

Another person remarked on the WHOU Facebook page, “The girls singled out in that video will NEVER forget that. It will stick with them for the rest of their lives. … Their bodies never should have been a topic of discussion.”

Several commenters on the station’s Facebook page praised Grant for firing the announcers swiftly.

“Thank you for doing the right thing,” one said. “There was no need for those comments on air or off. Kids have enough to deal with.”

But another added, “I am glad WHOU took swift action, but we need to see more from those men towards those young ladies, and all those hurt in that video. Words hurt as much as actions.”

Joseph Leach’s daughter plays on the team that was mocked by Carter and Shaw. Leach said he heard the recording when he returned home from attending the game.

“Mostly shock, really,” Leach said of his reaction to the broadcasting team. “I was home after the games and somebody shared the video with us and I instantly knew it was Jim Carter and Steve Shaw talking, and I really just couldn’t believe what they were saying, honestly.”

Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Carter declined to go into details about the incident, but expressed remorse. He said he apologized to the superintendent of the school that has the players he disparaged.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Carter said. “Hopefully everybody can get through this and be OK.”

Attempts to reach Shaw for an interview were not successful Friday.

WHOU has livestreamed high school sports for 11 years, primarily in Aroostook County, but is branching out to statewide events as well. In November, the station livestreamed state championship football games, and it has broadcast high school basketball tournament games in the past.

All announcers hired by WHOU are trained to keep the focus on the game action, and refrain from commenting negatively about players, coaches or officials, Grant said. The games are broadcast to highlight good things happening in the communities, he added.

“It’s in writing. It’s verbalized. It’s repeated,” Grant said. “They knew the deal. It’s a colossal failure by them.”

Grant released a statement of apology on behalf of WHOU on Thursday night.

“Our mission has been to highlight the best of our communities, our schools, the programs we love, and most importantly – our students. Tonight, two broadcasters made comments that were not only inappropriate, they were also blatantly wrong. Those broadcasters were terminated.”

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