National Catholic Register


Rejecting Apology, Boston Pubs Boycott Sam

BY John Burger

September 8-14, 2002 Issue | Posted 9/8/02 at 2:00 AM


BOSTON — After the British responded to the Boston Tea Party by closing the harbor, Samuel Adams the patriot urged a general boycott of British trade by the American colonies.

Now, led by an angry Catholic father, 50 Boston pubs are boycotting the beer that bears Adams’ name. They say they're hoping to help “turn around” major media's slide into filth.

Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams, was a sponsor of the syndicated Opie & Anthony Show until Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia got kicked off New York's WNEWFM. The shock jocks broadcast a sex stunt inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan on the feast of the Assumption, part of the third annual Sex for Sam contest in which players competed for points for having sex in the riskiest public places. The winner was given a free trip to Boston for a Sam Adams-sponsored concert.

Boston Beer chairman Jim Koch, who was in the studio during the live broadcast on Aug. 26, called his presence on the show a “lapse in judgment, a serious mistake.”

“We are re-evaluating our policy on radio station appearances,” Koch wrote.

The Catholic League in New York said it was satisfied with the apology, which Koch also expressed in a phone call to the group Aug. 26.

But Boston pub owner Jerry Foley found the apology “mealy-mouthed.”

“It didn't do the trick,” the Catholic father said.

He and restaurateur Michael Sheehan still wanted to express their outrage at what Foley, owner of J.J. Foley's in downtown Boston, called a “very disgraceful display” and a “very anti-Catholic stunt.” So the two organized a boycott of the brew. Foley said Aug. 29 that 30 to 50 city establishments have since signed on and are refusing to serve up any more Sams.

In addition, he said, “a lot of people are quietly boycotting” the product and he expected the action to spread to places like New York and Chicago.

Foley's patrons are “very happy” that he's refusing to stock Sam Adams and are switching to Guinness Stout and Bass Ale, he reported. Sam Adams is “a good local brew, and everyone was happy with it, but there are other local brews.”

The Apology

Koch said in the formal apology that the company was “not in control of the program, and it was never our intention to be part of a radio station promotion that crossed the line.” He also responded to an e-mailed protest, “I had no warning that a place of worship would be part of the show. I should have walked off the show and I didn't.”

But C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, responded: “It was a contest encouraging people to engage in sex in public places, and his company supplied the prize. And he was in the studio as it was being reported over a cell phone. What happened in St. Patrick's Cathedral was an outrage, a sacrilege and a crime.”

Opie and Anthony have crossed the line in the past. They were fired from a Boston radio station after an April Fool's broadcast stating that that city's mayor had been killed in a car crash.

Just a couple of months before this incident, the Federal Communications Commission fined Infinity Broadcasting, which owns New York's WNEW-FM, $21,000 for airing three indecent Opie & Anthony shows.

Lewd and crude, with plenty of talk about sex, the show encouraged women to bare their breasts to anyone displaying a WOW bumper sticker on a car. Opie and Anthony also offered $1,000 to the first woman who exposed her chest on a live airing of NBC's “Today Show.” Someone took them up on the offer.

They boasted in a Penthouse interview about the sex on their show getting around FCC rules, and how many listeners viewed it on a Web cam accessible through the WNEW Web site. “You have to be smart about how you word things and present situations to the listener,” Cumia said. “You want to give them every detail of what is going on, but still adhere to the FCC rules. And I think we do a good job of that.”

Third Contest

The cathedral incident took place during the third annual Sex for Sam contest, and this year, “a church” was added to the list of risky places where contestants could win points for engaging in public fornication.

As Brian Florence and Loretta Lynn Harper, both of Virginia, did so in a cathedral vestibule, comedian Paul Mercurio reported on it over his cell phone.

He and the show's hosts also managed to get in a few digs at the priest-hood in light of the recent sex scandals with references to pedophilia, according to a digital recording of the segment.

As he was being confronted by a St. Patrick's security guard, Mercurio made another reference to pedophilia and added, “I guess when the doors are closed it happens on the altar, right?”

The trio also took up a significant portion of policemen's time in a city that is still on edge after last September's terrorist attacks. The three were arrested, but as they were being questioned, Mercurio and Florence told them that Florence went into the cathedral because he desperately needed to use a restroom. Mercurio told them the couple were his friends and he was showing them around the city.

The incident was an “out and out disregard for someone's worship,” pub owner Foley complained. But more important than an apology from Boston Beer is the need for the Federal Communications Commission, which is looking into penalties for the broadcast, to “turn this media around,” he said. “It's such garbage.”

A father of seven children and a grandfather, Foley said, “You can't listen to this with kids around.”

The Catholic Action League asked Koch to guarantee that he won't subsidize Catholic bashers in the future. “He said he had to think about it,” said Doyle, who also received a telephoned apology from the beer executive. “If it was racism or anti-Semitism, I don't think you would have to ‘think about it.’”

Koch could not be reached for comment, but Boston Beer spokesman Skip Perham said, “We're working to address [Doyle's] needs.”