Last week, we got to watch a soccer player pick up a dog by the neck and throw it into a chain-link fence. That was bad enough, but this week three radio hosts at Atlanta’s ESPN 790 The Zone decided to make fun of former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Although there is no audio recording available of the broadcast, NBC’s Pro Football Talk is reporting that the broadcasters staged a mock interview with the beloved Saints safety, using a robot voice to poke fun at Gleason’s disease. Gleason has lost his ability to speak and walk amongst other things as a result of the disease.
He can only communicate by typing with his eyes using a program that then speaks for him, so what the guys over at 790 The Zone thought would be good comedy hit way too close to reality.
Gleason has forever etched his name in New Orleans Saints history thanks to a blocked punt. Back in 2006, during the first game in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, Gleason’s first quarter blocked punt led to a touchdown, the first New Orleans score in their city in nearly two years. That game was, amusingly enough, against the Falcons. He retired a year later, and announced in 2011 that he had diagnosed with ALS at an undisclosed time.
The Saints-Falcons rivalry is great and everything, but mocking an all-around great guy’s severe degenerative and debilitating disease is so far from humor that it… isn’t even funny. Steven Shapiro, Chris Dimino, and Nick Cellini, the three hosts of the station’s morning sports talk show, have been suspended indefinitely by 790 The Zone as a result of the incident.
Below is a statement from the ESPN radio station:
“We deeply regret the comments made by Mahem In The AM this morning on 790 The Zone regarding former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason. 790 The Zone, Lincoln Financial Media, our sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support the unfortunate and offensive commentary concerning Mr. Gleason this morning. The members of the show involved with this incident have been suspended indefinitely pending further management review of their actions.”
Cellini took to twitter to apologize:
My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid.
— Nick Cellini (@NickCellini) June 17, 2013
It appears that Steven Shapiro, also known as “Steak,” is the station’s founder, according to their website. Did he suspend himself? Will he fire himself? We’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: Nick Cellini provided a formal apology for the incident:
“I deeply regret the ill attempt at humor from this morning’s show. I have personally apologized to Steve Gleason and his wife. The comments were insensitive and offensive and do not represent my personal views regarding the severity of the disease. I also apologize to the fans of the New Orleans Saints, the NFL organization and the families who have struggled with ALS and am profoundly sorry for the hurt I have caused; that was not the intent. I vow to work with Team Gleason in the fight against ALS and support the cause in any way I can.”
The audio of the broadcast was also released: