Atlanta’s 790 The Zone radio station hosts Steak Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini made fun of former NFL player Steve Gleason, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. The station responded by apologizing and firing hosts.
Gleason used to play for the New Orleans Saints. He found out he has ALS, a “progressive neurodegenerative disease” also known as Lou Gehrig’s, according to the websites for the ALS Association and Gleason’s foundation.
According to Bleacher Report, the radio hosts’ segment, published on Station Caster, was “offensive to downright horrific.”
One of the hosts impersonated Gleason, who uses “a robotic voice—which Gleason operates using his eyes in order to speak,” Bleacher Report explained. The fake Gleason asked the hosts to “smother me. Do me a favor” and suggested he wouldn’t live to Thursday.
In an apology statement published on the station’s website, the station’s Senior VP and General Manager Rick Mack said the station found their comments “offensive” and regrettable. At first the three were suspended, but they have all been fired.
New Orleans’ WWLTV noted that one of the three hosts, Cellini, has also apologized with a tweet calling the segment “ignorant.” He added that he “apologized to [Gleason’s wife] Michel Gleason, she understands it was a stupid joke.”
My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid.
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— Nick Cellini (@NickCellini) June 17, 2013
The New Orleans Saints’ spokesman Greg Bensel said to WWLTV that while the team management had yet to hear the skit, “but if what is reported is accurate, it is grossly offensive.”
NOLA.com reported that Gleason’s foundation Team Gleason said it didn’t “feel the need to issue a statement [on the segment] as it just takes time away from the important things Steve and Team Gleason are doing.”
iMediaEthics has written to 790 The Zone’s Mack asking for more information about the review of the segment and why the station decided to quickly upgrade the trio’s suspension to a firing. We’ll update with any response.