Lincoln Financial Media has fired WQXI-AM Atlanta (790 The Zone) sports talkers Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino, and Steak Shapiro for making fun of former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS, during their “Mayhem In The AM” show.
Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, penned a guest column for SI.com’s Peter King 6/17 (he typed it via software using with his eyes because of severe impaired body function). Soon after, Cellini and Shapiro went on the air and made fun of Gleason.
They set up a skit where they pretended that Gleason was a caller to the show and set up a fake caller with a robotic voice, because the disease has robbed Gleason of his ability to speak. They then wondered, on the air, whether Gleason would be alive by next week.
The station first suspended all three hosts indefinitely. Rick Mack, The Zone SVP/GM, soon after fired them and then issued the following 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.”
And since this happened on the Atlanta Falcons’ flagship station, you can bet the Falcons franchise wasn’t happy about it at all. The Falcons’ statement, thanks to a Yahoo Sports story:
“The Falcons are disappointed in the comments made about former Saints player Steve Gleason on a local Atlanta radio station Monday morning. 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.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Somehow we wonder if the reason they thought they could get away with such a blunder is that Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg (Howard Wolowitz) was able to pull off mocking physicist Stephen Hawking during an episode of the show (his computer-generated voice). Hawking also has ALS and has guest-starred on the TV show. The hosts should have realized that a sports figure that relied on his physical strength for his career rather than just his mind (like Hawking) might not be a good target to poke fun of…especially “wondering if he’d be alive next week.” Our condolences to Gleason, The Zone and Lincoln Financial Media on this one…