The hosts of a radio talk show in Atlanta, who did a 'skit' mocking former Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS, have been fired, according to a statement on the station's web site.
The hosts of Mayhem in the AM – Steak Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini – were terminated.
"790 The Zone, our owners, sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support this kind of content. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Gleason, his family and all those touched by ALS," said Rick Mack, 790 The Zone Sr. VP & General Manager.
Cellini, on his Twitter account, again apologized and said he would do what he could to help Team Gleason. "No one made me apologize earlier, no one made me reach out. I was ignorant and it was the right thing to do. Got what I deserved.."
When reached for reaction to the segment, Team Gleason said they were aware of it but had no comment.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and disability. It eventually affects the person's ability to eat, walk, talk and breathe.
Click for the Team Gleason web site.
The story caught fire after a thread was started on LSU fan message board TigerDroppings.com decrying the segment. The outrage quickly grew to Twitter and Facebook, where those angered by the treatment of someone suffering from a debilitating disease had an easy avenue to voice their opinion.
Gleason, the former Saints special teams standout best known for blocking a punt in the re-opening of the Superdome a year after Hurricane Katrina, uses a computer program to speak due to the advancement of ALS.
In the audio clip, obtained by New Orleans radio station 106.1 The Ticket, the Atlanta radio hosts begin by welcoming their version of Steve Gleason to the show. The computer-generated voice responds by asking a couple of questions about the hosts’ families before breaking into three knock-knock jokes.
Two of the jokes delved into the real Gleason’s battle with ALS, one of which ended with 790 The Zone’s radio-generated voice asking for the hosts to “smother” him.
The Atlanta radio station did not post the segment, but the response on social media included Scott Fujita, the former Saints linebacker and good friend of Gleason.
After receiving several tweets to his account, Cellini later tweeted an apology.
My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid.— Nick Cellini (@NickCellini) June 17, 2013
While 790 The Zone is the home for Atlanta Falcons football, the franchise played no part in Monday morning's segment.
The Saints, through team spokesman Greg Bensel, issued a statement midday Monday.
“The New Orleans Saints support Steve Gleason not only for what he means to our organization and our city but more importantly what he means in his tremendous fight to find a cure for ALS...we have not heard the radio report, but if what is reported is accurate, it is grossly offensive,” Bensel said.
Meanwhile, Gleason was the guest writer for this week’s “Monday Morning QuarterBack” on SI.com, detailing his battle with ALS. In it, Gleason mentions how he has to "type" with his eyes at 20 words per minute using special software attached to his computer.
Below is the full statement:
"We deeply regret the offensive programming that aired this morning on “Mayhem In The AM” on 790 The Zone, related to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS. We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following their comments and have since terminated their employment. 790 The Zone, our owners, sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support this kind of content. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Gleason, his family and all those touched by ALS."
— Rick Mack, 790 The Zone Sr. VP & General Manager