How does ESPN Cleveland know that Tony Rizzo’s wife is lying?

by Cleveland Frowns on December 12, 2013

Last Friday evening, popular morning show host Tony Rizzo of WKNR-AM 850 ESPN Cleveland radio’s “The Really Big Show” was arrested by Medina Police on charges of domestic violence after his wife, Katherine Rizzo, called 911 to report as follows:

“My husband is hurting me, and he’s very irate and I’m really scared,” said Mrs. Rizzo to the 911 dispatcher.

The dispatcher asked, “Hurting you how?”

Mrs. Rizzo replied, “Choking me, hitting my face. I’m locked in the bathroom right now.”

Mrs. Rizzo went on to explain that the couple had been drinking, that there was a gun in the house, and that Mr. Rizzo “was beating on the [bathroom] door, but he left when he heard that [Mrs. Rizzo] was calling [911].”

From there, Mr. Rizzo was shortly arrested and the below mug shot was taken. A full transcript and audio of the 911 call are available here.

Tony Rizzo 850 AM ESPN Cleveland WKNR

On the following Sunday morning, Rizzo, who reportedly informed his employers of his arrest “right away,” appeared on the radio for his Browns pregame duties as if the incident never happened. He did the same on Monday morning for about two hours on “The Really Big Show” until television station Fox 8 Cleveland (WJW) — Rizzo’s former employer and current host of his weekly sports-themed variety show — reported on the charges at approximately 11 AM. This led to what Kevin Kleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business called “an odd final two hours of [Monday’s program].”

At the time the story broke, Rizzo happened to be on the air with hugely popular ex-Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who over the last year has been the subject of a number of reports about his struggles with an apparent substance abuse problem, including an arrest for DUI. So Rizzo conveniently alluded to Kosar’s experience with having his own personal problems come under public scrutiny, before going on to make a joke about a local law firm that sponsors “The Really Big Show,” then explaining to his listeners that he “didn’t do anything wrong,” and that he would be back on the air the following morning.

Later that day, WKNR’s owner, Good Karma Broadcasting, issued the following statement to various press outlets by email, that has since been repeated several times on the air by WKNR personnel, including by Rizzo’s co-host, Aaron Goldhammer:

“We don’t believe it is appropriate to comment on Tony’s personal life. Tony is an exemplary teammate and member of the community, and his status with us is unaffected.”

In claiming that it can’t “comment on Tony’s personal life,” the station mainly insults its listeners. Rizzo, for better or worse, is one of Cleveland’s most high profile public figures. He’s been arraigned on allegations that are public record and that would, if true, reflect significantly on his credibility as well as that of his employer and sponsors.

But worse, Good Karma’s statement of support for Rizzo is necessarily an accusation against Rizzo’s wife. Of course, if Mrs. Rizzo’s allegations are true, then Tony absolutely is not “an exemplary member of the community,” and almost certainly isn’t “an exemplary teammate” either, at least to the extent that this “team” wants to maintain credibility on basic principles related to whether a decent man is one who beats up on women. While it’s true that Tony is innocent until proven guilty, that absolutely does not mean that his wife should be presumed a liar, as convenient as it might be for Rizzo’s employers, sponsors, and some of his listeners to believe otherwise. By making such an unequivocal statement of support for Mr. Rizzo, his employers/partners at Good Karma are saying either that they don’t care whether his wife’s allegations are true, or that they somehow know for a fact that the allegations are not true, and that Mrs. Rizzo was lying when she called 911. So we’re talking about a statement against an alleged victim of spousal abuse that’s somewhere between thoroughly repugnant and almost completely incredible, which explains why a few local media-types have reacted with skepticism to Good Karma’s response to the charges.

Maybe there’s a chance that WKNR management could be in a position to know for sure that Rizzo’s wife was lying when she called 911 on Friday night, but it’s hard to imagine what secret facts could give rise to such certainty on the part of anyone who wasn’t in the house with the Rizzos on Friday night. So at this point it has to be considered at least as likely if not considerably more so that Good Karma and ESPN Cleveland are just rolling the dice here in hopes that Rizzo’s wife will refuse to testify against him (as commonly happens in domestic violence cases), or that Rizzo is otherwise acquitted or able to reach a deal with the Medina County Prosecutor to plead to lesser charges, or just that enough of Rizzo’s sponsors and listeners will soon forget about the whole thing however it plays out.

As for why else Good Karma/ESPN Cleveland would default to victim blaming instead of simply issuing a neutral statement that mentioned the seriousness of the charges and the sanctity of the legal process (let alone a suspension with pay until the legal issue clears up), it’s easy enough to follow the money. It’s an open secret that Rizzo’s “Really Big Show” is the most profitable sports radio programming in town, as confirmed by the prodigious amount of advertising that gets packed into the show’s daily four hours. Rizzo has reportedly been granted an equity stake in the radio station and when three longtime WKNR personalities were recently terminated, folks wondered whether there was enough cash to go around at ESPN Cleveland. As noted by Ohio Media Watch this week: “Rizzo is very clearly the MVP at [WKNR], and very much the Glue That Holds ESPN Cleveland Together. In a battle for sports talk supremacy with CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 ‘The Fan,’ it appears Good Karma can’t do without Rizzo for any lengthy period of time.”

It’s certainly true that nobody in town shills like Rizzo does. As hard as it might be for WKNR to replace his abilities as a tuning fork for Cleveland sports fan’s lowest common denominator, it would be impossible for them to find someone else with Rizzo’s preternatural enthusiasm for selling aspiring Medina Country Club members on bee pollen pills as the secret to everlasting health and wellness. Journalism-slash-entertainment is one thing. An advertiser-driven cult of personality is another.

So, sorry Mrs. Rizzo. Your husband might have beaten you up but the show must go on, and it must go on with your husband as “an exemplary member of the community.” Which means that we have to presume you to be a liar from the start.


On the air yesterday, Tony proudly announced the continuing support of his sponsor Joebees — purveyor of “‘Total Nutrition’ necessary for living a long and healthy life” in the form of “100% pure and natural bee pollen” — and explained to his listeners that Joebees pills were what was going to get him through his ordeal with the domestic violence charges.

There’s no telling yet as to exactly how many of Rizzo’s other sponsors will stay part of this wagon circle. And no word as to whether the Cleveland Browns, who can presumably afford to do without Rizzo for at least a few weeks, will continue to permit him to be a part of their game day programming before the domestic violence charges are resolved.


UPDATE, 12/15/13, 10:30 AM: Sources confirm that Rizzo has been pulled from Browns game day coverage, at least for this week.

  • Brian Sipe

    The thing I have found odd all week is when Bernie, Grossi, Hammer, etc. all keep saying “stay strong Tony” or “we’ve got your back”. Even the callers have taken to “getting Tony’s back”. If anything I think it would be wise to simply say nothing. They have no idea what went down there and even if he gets the charges dropped we know something bad went down for his wife to call the cops and lock herself in the bathroom. I assume this will all go away, as he is hugely popular with the ‘common man’ in Cleveland.

    • bupalos

      Yeah, “I’ve got your back” in context here is pretty much sounds like accessory to assault.

      >>>I assume this will all go away, as he is hugely popular with the ‘common man’ in Cleveland.>>>

      I’m not that sure it needs to go away. I think there is no telling whether this will make him more or less popular with the people who like him.

  • GRRustlers

    The worst part of all of this is that bupalos had the solution.

    If Tony would have just got down on his knees with a straw and obtained his bee pollen the natural way none of this would have happened.

    Being in the small town of Medina I have observed some interesting Facebook discussion about this and am confused by the people who know him saying that we just need to wait for all the info and leaving it at that.

    Well…I’m waiting…and the longer I wait the worse it looks for Tony.

    • bupalos

      Indeed as resident bee-keeper I could have predicted this. Bee-rape pills only lead you one way. For those who don’t know about the bee rape that fuels rizzo, bees work hard all day packing pollen in their little leg buckets to bring home and make these cute little patty-cakes for their c.2008-Mangini-like broodlings. Well, the rape-minded bee-keeper constructs a little wire thingy that makes them dump their hard-earned buckets at the door, then sweeps it all up and dumps it into the eager wife-beating maws of Rizzo clones for 3 easy payments of $19.99 a day. Meanwhile the little augustus glooplings starve. Every now and then some of the more sensitive bees dress up as tiny indians and fly out to the side of the freeway to drop silent and gentle bee tears — hoping some enterprising psa producer will notice. But the world rushes on by, unperturbed until incidents like this bring the karmic horror to light. But for how long? A day? Maybe 2. Then back to bee rape.

      Natural is the only way to go, but when going that route, don’t forget to coat the interior of the straw with a protective annulus of N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine to protect the pollen’s delicate balance of vital essences from contamination. This is what has given me my insights into the activities of the more sensitive bees, as well as my stunning Cheddar clairvoyance.

      • NeedsFoodBadly

        One of my biggest dreams is to be a beekeeper. Please tell me more about keeping bees.

        • bupalos

          You do dream big.

          Step 1: get 10,000 bees.
          Step 2: keep them.

          knocked that baby out for you!

          But seriously, you can keep bees pretty much anywhere and Italians or especially Carnolians are as gentle as lambs. Well, lambs with stingers. But when nectar is flowing, which around here is pretty much all the time if it’s not drought, you could pretty much pop bees into your mouth and let them fly around and out and they won’t bother to sting you, as they just want to get back to work. Completely fascinating critters.

          Fun bee fact: all the males are fat and lazy and do nothing but eat honey and potentially (like 1 in 1000) mate with a queen. And in the late fall the females all get tired of their extreme uselessness, beat the crap out of them, wrestle them out of the hive and leave them to die on the cold ground. On the way out you can swear you hear them saying “but baby, really, this time I’m going to get a job, I swear….”

          But there are like a billion fun bee facts. Don’t get me started.

          • bupalos

            All right, one more fun bee fact. In the winter, all the ladies left, like maybe 20-30k usually, all huddle into one big hanging ball, about like a blunt football, and the ball is constantly cycling, with layers of bees moving from the interior layers out and the outer layers down around the bottom up into the center where the queen stays the whole time. This is a keeping warm strategy. And then if the hive is opened and it’s really too cold to fly, all the bees in the outer layer of the mass turn their butts out and present a couple thousand stingers, so the whole thing is like a big pulsating venomous porcupine just begging you to try some shit. And then if you sit there and stare, the mass will basically shoot individual bees straight out at your face, one or two a second. It’s sci-fi type horrible/wonderful.

          • Beeej

            If I weren’t highly allergic, I would give serious consideration to keeping some bees this summer. I love those little buggers. Plus, honey.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          NFB if you are serious I had 11 very productive bee hives at my house on the Pedernales, I really can help.
          Bupa, I love you, but…. The fact that bees vector pollen is just an anomaly that helped to increase their fecundity by helping flowers they draw nectar from increase their biodiversity. A bee would not be directly harmed if the pollen was removed, it could however affect the plant life with which they carry on their symbiotic relationship. (I still loved your crying ‘almost native american’ stuff.) Also, I have for a long time had a bit of an aversion to people who claim that they are allergic to flowers. Any pollen that is vectored is far to large to trigger a histamine response.

          • NeedsFoodBadly

            I’m dead serious. For my senior project in high school, I built a bee hive and put a swarm/queen in. The post office was very upset when the bees arrived in the mail, as I recall. Dumping out the bees in front of the hive and watching as they flew around and found their home ranks in my top ten life experiences.

            But when I went away to college, I never saw it again (I know my ecology teacher made sure it found a home with a farmer somewhere).

            I’ve rented apartments since college, but once I get my own slice of land, I really do want to keep bees. I should probably get in touch with my local beekeeper’s association, just been lazy about it.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Does your apartment have a patio? What better way to get to know your neighbors? It will also keep them from spending too much time out on their patios smoking, drinking and speaking too loudly. A nice big bee hive on your patio is a terrific idea. However do not waste your time with Italian bees or Carnolians, get some genuine SNL Killer Bees. Be warned though, the males are always buzzing off.

          • bupalos

            Acto you know I want to mate with you a mile above the earth, but without pollen, brood would hatch out like wasted little Avril levign’s instead of hardy hope solos. Of course they might beat their boyfriends less.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Bupa, you have had a bit of convergent evolution with a now deceased friend of mine.
            Please read “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” (not at all a detective book) and “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul”.
            Well…. you should get a breathalyzer for your computer too.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Also, as I mentioned before, it is “root root root for the Indians”.
            We are suckers because we have descended from other sports masochists. The brainwashing starts at an early age. This is my Acto-ette shortly after her 2nd birthday.

          • bupalos

            I approve of her emendation “take me up to the crowd.” That fits our neverending quest to be average. I’m less sanguine about “if they don’t loop on the shake.” Nonetheless I will be singing it this way henceforth.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Bupa, just heard another rumor from a high placed white horse soused, I do not know if this is the proper venue for football rumors, I do not wish to belittle the importance of the Rizzo story, but….
            Let me know if you are interested, I think it is a terrific idea for the Browns.

          • Cleveland Frowns

            What is the rumour, Acto? I’ll allow it this once.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            I do not get Cleveland mainstream media, so perhaps I am far behind again, however two different but reliable sources told me that the Browns are trying to make a deal for Tony Romo. I think that Romo is a very serviceable quarterback. (“Very serviceable” is one of the greatest complements I have ever given a QB.)
            I would be happy to stand pat with Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell, then the Browns need to pick up Zach Zulli for the future!

          • bupalos

            Now that’s kind of interesting. Maybe the Cowboys get Cutler and send us Romo. Romo makes a fair chunk of change under his extension, but part of that would be on the cowboys in the form of his signing bonus which is about a quarter of his cap number. Could the Cowboys take on Romo’s accelerated signing bonus AND sign Cutler? Maybe if it’s in their heads to replace someone else making too much with our second first round pick, which I think would be our end of the trade considering Romo’s salary.

            Presuming the browns like Romo as well as Cutler (I do,) the numbers probably work better on Romo. And the Dallas media seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that Romo is holding them back, when from my brief viewings it sure looks more like the problem is on their lines.

            I’m going to endorse this rumor. After watching Cutler “try” to prevent the pick 6 after throwing the int last week, I really think Dallas is the place he needs to be.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            I am in agreement on the Johnny Football thought, but i would like to emphasize the browns are allegedly trying to get Romo. With trying being the operative word.

          • bupalos

            I think it makes too much sense. Dallas is going to spend every second from now until rosters figuring out how to get under the cap, and folks are hating on Romo down there big time. Then you have the connections between the organizations, and Manziel both a Texas-sized marketing ploy and a great candidate to run around on artificial turf and toss jump balls to dez bryant.

            No good reason this shouldn’t happen. I’m ordering my jersey now.

        • CleveLandThatILove

          And I’m always looking for a good excuse for a new outfit, so, yes more please.

      • jimkanicki

        Tell your representative to give bees a chance!

        no really, do.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          The message, not the song!
          I am in favor of the message, but why did they have to tie it to a song from the most overrated, overplayed band?

  • PML
    • actovegin1armstrong

      Please insert Michael Jackson joke here_____

  • DMc

    Clearly Frowns, you don’t have all of the facts. Let me fill you in on what really happened. Late Friday night after partying for multiple hours, Tony’s wife was self diagnosed with Anaphalaxis. Obviously, if you know anything about Anaphalaxis, a call to 911 is inevitable. She had to make that call..,but at what cost? He could not allow anyone to be made aware of his wife’s Anaphalaxis-like reaction that night. So he did what any lucratively sponsored radio host would do. He smacked her and choked her a bit. He made it SEEM like domestic violence, covering up the root cause of the 911 call. It was a win win. She would be ok in the long run, and no one would ever know the dangerous side effects of a long term addiction to bee pollen.

  • beeej

    Hasn’t bee pollen been known to cause hyper-aggressiveness?

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Yes, but it only triggers hyper-aggressiveness in the bees it is taken from.

  • bupalos

    >>>and explained to his listeners that Joebees pills were what was going to get him through his ordeal with the domestic violence charges.>>>

    This didn’t really happen. This can’t have happened.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Someone just emailed me to point out that yesterday, maybe late in the 9am hour, Rizzo did a live ad read for ADT security systems and said “I know someone who’s going to need that” or something to that affect. Did anyone else hear that?

    • Brian Sipe

      I heard him say that and thought to myself, “there is no way he just said that”. He seems to have ZERO fears.

      • bupalos

        This guy is going Rob Ford.

  • CleveLandThatILove

    You’re right, she probably won’t testify, or leave him. Guys like that don’t usually get involved with women that would.

  • Easy_P

    I find it odd that the Rizzo Show, which is nothing more than another free food grab and a look at Mike Polk’s newest Youtube vid, anytime he takes a sip of alcohol and says he has a DD. Apparently when you go out with your wife and she gets drunk and you end up in a drunken rage all bets are off. His next court date isn’t until Jan 17th and I imagine he will be staying some place else till then. If she allows him in the home and waives the protection order or never requested one at the arraignment, you can bet it will be like Frowns says and the case will be pleaded.

    BTW, upon looking up Anthony Rizzo in Medina County Court, an entry is there for felony probation violation. Didn’t complete drug and alcohol rehab or make $4k in restitution. Same dude or his son?

  • Dawgday

    You have spun “good teammate” into victim blaming. Bravo. Spoken like a true lawyer.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Frownie can spin it with the best of them!
      He is always willing to “Inherit the Wind”

  • p_forever

    aside from WKNR’s statement, i thought one of the grossest moments in this super gross victim blaming sh*t show was when tony grossi tweeted to tony rizzo just minutes after the news of rizzo’s arrest broke: “hang in there. we’re all with you.” or how about rizzo joking on air about drinking songs and getting wasted and etc. just a few days after he was arrested for abusing his wife when while getting wasted.

    it’s just – the level of public acceptance for this sort of behavior actually makes me sicker than rizzo’s behavior itself.

  • jimkanicki

    The headline (plus P4’s comment) brought something back to the fore of my mind and it’s timely given the pending award ceremony:

    How does the Heisman committee, ESPN, etc. know Jameis Winston’s accuser is lying?

    I haven’t wanted to get busy with this because you pull that string and it gets to 2000 words fast. But this subject has gone away a bit too fast for my liking and it’ll be like it never happened tomorrow night.

    • Cleveland Frowns

      The fact that the Winston matter has been subject to a complete investigation by law enforcement authorities who’ve refused to bring a case despite the insistence of the alleged victim, whose story has been inconsistent and contradicted by multiple witnesses, makes it quite a bit different from the Rizzo situation, at least as things stand now.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    Semi-related: According to this article, 87,000 pounds of fecal matter are produced by animals raised for food in the U.S. every second:

    That’s more than 7.5 billion pounds a day, which makes up 130 times the amount of fecal matter produced by the country’s human population but with much less stringent processing requirements than those imposed on human waste (at this point 35,000 miles of U.S. riverways have been reported to be polluted by factory farm waste). And to get so many animals to produce so much waste, factory farms subject them to a life of torture from birth, which now takes place over the spread of 528 million U.S. acres (more than one fifth of the nation’s land mass) devoted to animal production.

    This world of shit has been relentlessly promoted by industry lobbyists and approved by U.S. lawmakers all so that twelve or so corporations can make as much money as possible selling Americans one of the worst diets in the developed world. I hope a lot of people will read this article and pass it around and consider whether they’re able to stop participating in this insanity in whatever ways possible.

    Also, here’s an older but just as horrifying piece, about the U.S. pork industry, that discusses how a group of fisherman in North Carolina have had their livelihoods ruined by drug laced pig shit having killed all the fish in the local waterways.…/13479

    And here’s one about a dairy-industry-backed organization that’s managed to convince a significant amount of the world’s population that eating soy beans is somehow less healthy for humans than eating cow’s milk.

    It’s good to be alive! Wheeeeee!

    • bupalos

      Total horror show. You can be pretty sure that in addition to the crap, the cruelty factories of agribusiness are probably creating their share of child molesters and murderers. I doubt there are many humans that can directly participate in that kind of daily torture and objectification of sentient suffering without being changed for the worse. But even without the karmic horror, there is simply no way to deal effectively with the concentrations of animal waste agribusiness creates given the politics.

      If you need to do meat (I kind of do), there are quite a few sustainable options out there. Especially here out east, where the deer eat a lot of corn and soy, and their meat ends up as mild and tasty as farmed beef. They get to prance around and do your full spectrum of deer stuff right up until the bullet or bolt turns them into a tasty treat; and providing the population a predator actually reduces suffering overall too. You don’t have to hunt, there are a few processors out here that do a good job and will “sell you the processing” on a deer that an overstocked hunter has “donated.” (The transaction is technically structured this way for FDA reasons, but it’s no different from going to the butcher really.) There are small scale chicken farms out here too, both Amish and organic. Meat freezes so well I don’t think there’s too much excuse for not making the effort a few times a year to stock up from places like these to keep from participating in the gruesome corporate soulsucking business outlined in the Rolling Stone piece. If anyone wants recommendations just ask.

      • Chris Mc

        There are several good points here. A number of communities around here overpopulated with deer (Solon for example) have animal rights honks making all kinds of noise saying that culling deer and donating the meat to homeless shelters is “cruel”.

        Meanwhile, the same people would stand there and tell you straight-faced that it’s more humane to let the deer starve in the winter and let the meat rot.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    UPDATE, 12/15/13, 10:30 AM: Sources confirm that Rizzo has been pulled from Browns game day coverage, at least for this week. Good on the Brownies.

  • FTCMikeD

    Sounds like Riz is on the air this morning.

  • actovegin1armstrong

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