Fired radio hosts apologize for mocking Steve Gleason and his ALS
Fired radio hosts Steak Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini have come forward to apologize to Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saints player who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, after they mocked him in an attempted comedy bit that caused them to lose them their jobs.
The trio of hosts for Atlanta's "Mayhem In The AM" sought to make light of Gleason's Sports Illustrated column about his ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, that was published Monday. One pretended to call in as Gleason during their show and did a synthetic voice impression of the former NFL star. The turning point during the bit was when the host did a knock-knock joke that had the punch line, "Smother me, do me a favor."
"You walk a fine line trying to be somewhat on the edge. We blew it. We blew it in a huge way," Shapiro tells CNN. "The pressure is to try to do a good radio show, and that wasn't a good moment. It was a horrible moment."
Shapiro, Dimino and Cellini were soon suspended and then fired from the 790 The Zone radio station. The station's general manager Rick Mack issued a statement after that read, "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."
The Atlanta Falcons, a team that Gleason played for from 2000 to 2006, also released a statement slamming the bit, which reads, "The content concerning Mr. Gleason was completely inappropriate and is not representative of the views of the Falcons organization, nor does it represent the way we conduct our business on and off the field. To single out Steve the way he was this morning is totally lacking in taste and discretion."
All three hosts almost immediately went to Twitter to apologize for their actions. "I have so.many people I have to apologize to. I know this is not who I am...but it is who I am today. An apology here means nothing if I don't reach out to all the people I need to. I am in that process as we speak. Friends and family and most importantly those I know I hurt," Dimino tweets.
Before deleting his Twitter account, Cellini wrote, "An update: we all got wacked. I apologized to Michel Gleason, she understands it was a stupid joke. I'll do my best 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.." He also tells NOLA.com that he plans to donate his first month's salary at his next job to the Team Gleason organization.
Shapiro, meanwhile, tweets, "What is so ironic is that I went to Tulane, love New Orleans and love the @steve_gleason story, what a moronic 2 mins, I am truly sorry.... ALS not a joke, bit or game. 20 yrs on the air, 2 bad mins on a show, look at the whole picture I hope. Zone was a great ride!! #thebest"
At least Gleason seems to have no hard feelings. He took to Facebook to say he received apologies from the hosts.
"Received and accepted," he writes. "We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are."
Here is the cringe-worthy bit: