Modern sports radio often walks a fine line between opinionated and offensive. Three radio sports talk hosts who crossed that line this week have been fired after airing a skit that made light of a former NFL player with Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The hosts of Atlants 790 The Zone's sports talk show Mayhem in the AM were fired after making fun of former NFL safety Steve Gleason. Program hosts Steak Shapiro, Chris Dimino, and Nick Cellini aired a "humorous" segment on Monday in which "Gleason," who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011, called into the radio show. As Gleason cannot speak without the aid of a synthetic voice, he was parodied in the segment with a robotic voice telling a knock-knock joke. The punchline was, "Smother me. Do me a favor."
Gleason played as a safety for the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2007. He now runs Team Gleason, an organization dedicated to raising ALS awareness and providing services to those afflicted with ALS.
Rick Mack, the general manager of 790 The Zone issued a statement on the matter on Monday, apologizing specifically to Gleason and explaining that the hosts have been fired:
"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."
Dimino has has also issued an apology on his Facebook page, referring to himself as a bully:
So where to begin. The obvious and rightful place is with an apology. And the reality of knowing that falls short...no matter what I say...is heartbreaking.
The sheer stupidity of trying to put this as a failed attempt at humor is not lost on me.
The words "Should have known better" mean nothing to me. And shouldn't to you right now
I would like to though offer my apology. Knowing that it is everyone's right not to accept it. Or even consider accepting it for now.
My apologies go out first to Steve Gleason and his family. The weight of what he and they are going through did not need to be made heavier or worse by the pure and straight insensitivity of my actions.
I also want to offer up my apologies to all who are not only dealing with ALS..but to those who are dealing with ANYTHING that has made themself or family and friends subject to the physical and emotional heartache of any debilitating disease or condition.
As a father of two girls, I put myself in a position that I have begged...pleaded..DEMANDED..they not put themselves in. That of the bully. The mean kid. The one who thinks what they say or do comes with no consequence. It does. It always does.
I have no illusion as to what 19 years on the radio...30 years of being a grown man..and most importantly almost 10 years of being a father..and what you build up in your name and reputation over those periods of time..should and does mean.
Now I know how quickly a stupid and worse than that non thinking moment can change all of it.
I hope I get a chance to prove this is not who I want to be. It was and is who "I am" today though. That much is not lost on me.
I have spent so long not trying to put other people in a bad place because of me. Today I failed miserably.
I'm very open to any and all dialogue as it pertains to the people I have hurt and disappointed. I've had that dialogue with myself..my wife and will with my kids.
Thanks for at least this much of your time
Steak Shapiro has appeared on CNN to apologize, calling the radio segment "stupid" and "offensive."
(Image courtesy Team Gleason)