Black-owned Sports Rap Radio readies to launch in Detroit

A landmark event in Black history — no, scratch that, American history — will take place in our city Monday morning. And you can listen in.

Sports Rap Radio, the nation’s first sports-talk radio station completely owned by and featuring African American talent, launches at 7 a.m. June 3 on AM 1270, WXYT. And for a city that’s 79% Black to have Black on-air hosts discussing pro leagues like the NBA and NFL that are 70% and 53% Black respectively, that sounds like a concept whose time is long, long overdue.

Sports Rap Radio is the grand vision of Rob Parker, who, despite his New York roots and national media profile as co-host of The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and work for ESPN, FS1, and other outlets, is deeply embedded in the Motor City. He was the first Black sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, worked for The Detroit News, Channels 4 and 7, and in 1994 was the first on-air voice hired for then-sports WDFN-AM. He even founded a barber shop, Sporty Cutz on West Seven Mile Road.

But Sports Rap Radio is clearly Parker’s passion now. “I’ve had this idea for a while,” he says. “It’s important to the city and the culture. Four years ago, the sports station in town had NO Black hosts in a city that’s 80% Black. That had to change.” (And it has, with the addition of Rico Beard on 97.1 FM, The Ticket.)

“We’re hoping everybody will get behind us,” Parker adds. “The response so far has been just tremendous. You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked, ‘What do we need to do?’ I tell them, ‘We’re going to need everything,’ but it’s shaping up and we’ll be ready to go.”

Delayed from its initial May 16 debut (“The broadcast studio wasn’t quite right,” Parker explains), Sports Rap Radio is made available through a two-year lease with Audacy, WXYT’s owner, and replaces Audacy’s syndicated BETQL Network. Parker is joined by three other co-owners, his longtime friend Dave Kenney, and two people whose names may resonate with Detroit sports fans: B. J. Armstrong, Brother Rice grad and three-time NBA champion, who’ll also handle the station’s midday shift; and Maurice “Moe” Ways, former Detroit Country Day star and University of Michigan wide receiver who says Parker has been a mentor since his high school days.

“He’s one of the few men I’ve met who really takes mentorship personally,” says Ways, whose NFL dreams were derailed by a torn Achilles but now works in finance for the Walt Disney Company with an emphasis on ESPN. “I shadowed him as my senior project at Country Day when he was on 97.1 The Ticket, and Rob and I just stayed in touch. Anytime we were in the same city, Detroit, New York or L.A., we would grab lunch or dinner and just talk.”

Ways adds, “He gave me a call last year and said, ‘I have this idea, me and B.J. and Dave, and I want you to be the last member of the team. Every conversation we’ve had, every question I’ve asked, it’s all been intentional. I’ve been trying to figure out how I can impact your career and your life, and I think this is one way to do it.’ You can only imagine how in awe I was to have him even consider me for a venture like this. Rob is my guy, 100 grand.”

According to the mission statement on its website,, “We will entertain and inform. We will chronicle the best and the worst of Motown’s hometown teams. … We will give you both young and fresh and experienced voices, talking with you, not at you. This will be that barbershop convo that made you fall in love with sports from the very beginning.”

As it stands now, the on-air lineup for Sports Rap Radio will sound like this:

• 7-10 a.m.: A variety of hosts will appear on the What Up Doe Morning Show, Parker says. A permanent morning-drive show will be in place by September.

• 10 a.m.-noon: B.J. Armstrong

• Noon-3 p.m.: The Bad Boys, U-M alum and Fox Sports Radio host Martin Weiss and veteran sports journalist J. R. Gamble

• 3-7 p.m.: Detroit native Montezz Allen and none other than Lindsey Hunter, member of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons team, in a show called The Pitbulls.

“I’ve done radio in Detroit before, and Rob thought I was good at it,” says Hunter, previously head basketball coach at Mississippi Valley State University. “When he came up with the opportunity I was excited about it. I was like, ‘Man, this could be a big thing.’”

From 7-10 p.m. the station will carry The Odd Couple, Parker’s nationally syndicated Fox Sports Radio series with co-host Chris Broussard.

In the overnights, Parker says the station will carry podcasts combined with old-school rap music. Yes, there will be rap music on Sports Rap Radio; there’ll even be a house DJ, “DJ Whutever.”

Podcasters can purchase one-hour blocks of airtime between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The podcasts must deal with Black life, not necessarily sports, and must be clean. “We decide if the podcast fits our station’s structure,” says Parker. For more information, contact the station’s website.

Sports Rap Radio also will carry the occasional Tigers, Red Wings, or Pistons game from 97.1 The Ticket if there are schedule conflicts. A key, of course, will be whether it can attract and maintain advertisers, but Parker already has an eye toward expansion. “You know, we could become a network in the top 20, 25 Black markets,” he advances. “And that could open up jobs for brothers and sisters around the country.”

Moe Ways sees mo’ ways for media domination, too. “No matter where you are in the country, you’ll have Sports Rap Radio,” he predicts. “That’s the goal, and I believe it will happen, man. And I love the fact that once it happens, we can always say we started at home, in Detroit. No matter how big we get, how far we go, the story always starts in Detroit.”

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