When Bay Area fixture Ralph Barbieri sat down for a radio interview in the wake of filing a $10 million age and disability discrimination suit against his longtime former employer KNBR, it could have been interpreted as the normal rollout en route to a potential lucrative settlement.
Yet Barbieri's interview took place on 95.7 FM — an upstart sports station that has taken pains to paint itself as KNBR's youthful alternative. While 95.7's on-air talent isn't particularly young, they do yap loudly over Top-40 music, encourage raucous debates, and know how to use Twitter. The new competitor's commitment to talking louder and not knowing the historical context of its high-decibel arguments appears to have put the fear of a youthful God into KNBR.
Barbieri's suit claims he was repeatedly upbraided by executives for supposed lethargy, and that Bill Bungeroth, a vice president of KNBR parent company Cumulus Media, bellowed, "You do not have enough energy. What is wrong with you?" before alluding to 95.7 FM: "We have some competition now.... I am not going to let 95.7 get the best of us."
Perhaps 95.7 ads querying listeners if they wanted to get their sports talk from broadcasters old enough to qualify for Social Security were weighing heavily on KNBR management. Barbieri is 66. These ads may well have been a direct shot at him.
In any event, last week Barbieri sat down at the station that lambasted him as too old to lambaste the managers he claims fired him because he was too old.
Barbieri claims he was squeezed out at KNBR after disclosing he had Parkinson's disease. At one point, he alleges he was harassed because he began to use the john more frequently than usual during his radio shifts — a side effect of the 81 pills he takes daily.
If nothing else, his suit is a trove of potential ad material for 95.7. Perhaps their future mean-spirited radio spots can query listeners if they want to get their sports talk from a man who suffers side effects from taking 81 pills a day.