Steven Cohen Abandons Sirius Radio Show Following Advertiser Boycott

Last Updated Oct 6, 2010 4:37 PM EDT

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Steven Cohen, the Fox Soccer Channel host axed from his TV show following an advertiser boycott urged by fans of Liverpool F.C., abandoned his Sirius XM radio show on Friday amid allegations of threats and censorship.

"The hate and threats that has been raging from the Liverpool contingent in the last five months, for me it's over. I'm not going to put my family in this position any more," Cohen said in the final broadcast of the show, World Soccer Daily (download as a podcast here).
The closing of WSD brings to an end one of the stranger sagas of the nascent American soccer market, and raises the question of who went too far: Fans who wanted Cohen off the air, advertisers who sided with those fans, or Cohen himself, who repeatedly antagonized his own audience with a largely evidence-free conspiracy theory about the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

Cohen attracted the ire of those fans in April, on the 20th anniversary of an infamous stadium crush that left 96 supporters dead. He said on his Sirius show that ticketless Liverpool fans attempting to get into the Hillsborough stadium to see a game against Nottingham Forest F.C. were responsible for the deaths.

A government inquiry at the time established that there were few ticketless fans, and that the design of the stadium and miscommunications among officials on the day were the cause of the Hillsborough disaster. The same report dismissed the "ticketless fans" idea as a "conspiracy theory."

American fans of Liverpool spent the summer emailing Cohen's advertisers, asking them to pull their ads on his TV and radio shows in protest at the remarks. More than four advertisers -- including Heineken -- did so. Shortly after, Fox Soccer Channel dropped Cohen from Fox Football Fone In. In response, Cohen alternately apologized for the remarks, only to repeat them in later broadcasts.

On Friday, Cohen announced he was ending WSD because he could withstand the protests no longer, and because of the loss of advertisers:
It has been a real struggle for the last five months.
He claimed that Liverpool fans had subjected him to threats and antisemitic insults, and that in the previous 24 hours his friends and stepchildren had been "contacted":
Hate wins. Antisemitism wins. Rage wins ... if this goes on much longer people are going to get hurt, people are going to get killed. It's just not worth it.
Cohen's allegations of antisemitism have puzzled Liverpool fans because the captain of the Israeli national team, Yossi Benayoun, is one of Liverpool's star players and is crucial to the side's league hopes this season; and Cohen's ethnicity was never an issue in the Hillsborough debate. (Liverpool Fans here and here* have said they don't believe Cohen received such threats.) Conor Brennan, vp of LFC New York and one of the architect's of the Cohen Boycott, said:
Allegations of anti-Semitism coming from Steven Cohen perplex me. ... I just wish people would sit down and think this through. How could this campaign approach Heineken or VIP Communications, 442 or Ruffneck Scarves mouthing anti-Semitic slurs or with veiled threats of violence?

Truthfully, I do not believe that his step-children were contacted; equally while I do believe he received some anti-Semitic emails and death/violence threats, I believe that there were significantly fewer than Mr. Cohen would have us believe. ... the campaign made it very clear that we condemned any threats and slurs and had nothing to do with them.
LFC New York published this statement:
Steven Cohen knowingly chose to lie about the 96, causing heartache and grief to the 96 families on Merseyside and Liverpool fans worldwide. Today he has paid for those lies.
Cohen also blamed the owners of Liverpool, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, whom he believes endorsed the campaign against him. And he singled out officials at Chelsea F.C., the club Cohen supports but which disowned him over his Hillsborough theories in July:
Hicks and Gillette you're a disgrace. [Chelsea CEO] Peter Kenyon, [Chelsea director of communications] Simon Greenberg, you're a disgrace.
Finally, Cohen reminded Liverpool fans why they began their campaign to persuade advertisers to leave his TV and radio shows in the first place. Despite an ebullient apology in July in which he retracted his belief that Liverpool fans shared responsibility for the deaths, he repeated the theory on Friday:
I think there was a shared responsibility on April 15th 1989, I do.
Disclosure: Author is a Liverpool fan.
*Correction: The BigSoccer post was written by an LA Galaxy fan -- apologies.

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