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Baseball: Reporter fired for comments made about Lafayette, its people

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, June 9, 2014

The Mississippi sports reporter who called Lafayette the worst place in America and its people impossible to understand on his radio show has since been terminated.

Matthew Stevens, 29, had been the Mississippi State University sports beat writer for The Commercial Dispatch for about 2 1/2 years.

"We felt like the decision to terminate Matt was based on good reasoning," said Slim Smith, the newspaper’s managing editor. "We gave this four or five days of really good thought and we concluded that it was the best course of action to take."

MORE: Reporter apologizes for offending Lafayette people

Stevens declined to comment on the matter.

He did, however, take to Twitter Monday to thank his readers and again apologize for the pain his comments caused many in south Louisiana.

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

Along with radio show co-hosts Joel Coleman and Brian Hadad, Stevens spoke about Lafayette and its people Wednesday during "The Full Court Press," a regular feature on internet station Bulldog Sports Radio.

"I’m not going to go as far as to say that they’re not people," Stevens said during the show. "But I don’t know what they are because they don’t speak English – and it’s not French – but I don’t know what it is."

Hadad responded with, "They’re the missing link – if you believe in evolution – between apes and humans, there’s Cajuns."

Local attorney Warren Perrin has spent his career working to right wrongs for the Cajun people, but he feels that Stevens should not have been fired for his words.

"I think it’s too harsh," Perrin said Monday. "I think it’s an overreaction. We’re a very forgiving and accommodating people."

If he were Stevens’ employer, Perrin would discipline the reporter by having him write a letter of apology to the people of Lafayette and Louisiana at large in addition to learning more about the history of the area.

"This situation just shows that there’s still people who need to learn a lot more about ethnicity and how people should not be branded as a group," Perrin said.

Stevens, who is a native of east-central Illinois, had visited Lafayette for a few days to cover the NCAA Regional Baseball Tournament, in which MSU fell to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

In an interview last week with The Advertiser, Stevens attributed his ill feelings toward the city to feeling unsafe in the hotel he stayed and apologized for the way he spoke about the city and its people.

"It’s me saying it, not anybody else’s voice, not a bad edit," Stevens said to The Advertiser. "But after proper reflection as to what kind of human being I want to be, that’s not It. And I don’t endorse what I said in that rant or the opinions I had in that rant."

During the radio show, Stevens also said that the only thing Cajuns know how to do is cook, that America would be better off without Louisiana and that there are no family-friendly neighborhoods in Lafayette.

The radio show is not affiliated with The Commercial Dispatch, but Stevens represented the newspaper while on the show, Smith said.

"We feel like when our reporters are out there, even doing non-job-related things, they still represent our paper," Smith said. "This is not a reaction to the reaction. It’s a decision based on what we thought was best for our product and our company."