San Francisco sports talker Ralph Barbieri is suing Cumulus Media’s KNBR for $10 million for wrongful termination. Filed Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that Cumulus Media fired Barbieri, 66, after learning that he had been diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Barbieri fought laryngitis as he talked with local Sport talk KGMZ-FM hosts Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis, explaining what he viewed as discrimination on the part of Cumulus Media execs Lew Dickey and Bill Bungeroth and KNBR PD Lee Hammer. All three, along with Cumulus Media and KNBR, are named as defendants, reports The San Jose Mercury News.
Shortly after Barbieri’s firing in April, Bungeroth issued a statement calling Barbieri attorney Angela Alioto’s version of the dismissal as “filled with inaccurate statements and baseless accusations.”
“The simple fact is that Ralph refused to honor some of the most basic terms of his contract,” Bungeroth wrote. “As a result, KNBR exercised its right to terminate the contract.”
Cumulus COO John Dickey tells RBR-TVBR: “We are confident the facts will provide overwhelming support of our actions.”
Barbieri’s attorney Angela Alioto told the San Francisco Chronicle station personnel told Barbieri he was being let go for coming to work late and not preparing. Bungeroth and Hammer said he sounded tired on the air as well.
Barbieri had co-hosted the afternoon drive show with Tom Tolbert since 1996 as “The Razor and Mr. T.”
Said Alioto: “If you look at the ratings, Mr. Barbieri and Mr. Tolbert were number one or two until the day he was terminated. The fact is, before they knew he was sick, those excuses didn’t exist – and they renewed his contract.”