Atlanta radio host outraged listeners flooding 790 The Zone with calls and messages demanding that Shapiro, Dimino and Cellini be fired.
Three Atlanta sports radio hosts were fired over an on-air sketch that made fun of former NFL player Steve Gleason and his plight with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ESPN affiliate 790 The Zone gave the cast of “Mayhem in the AM” the boot hours after they mocked Gleason in an “interview” using a fake, robotic voice in place of the ex-New Orleans Saints safety. Gleason, who is confined to a wheelchair, lost the use of his voice due to ALS and speaks through a computerized speech device.
“Mayhem in the AM’s” Steak Shapiro and Chris Dimino responded by taking a call from “Steve Gleason,” who was played by co-host Nick Cellini. The cringeworthy segment included knock-knock jokes by a voice that at one point asked Shapiro and Dimino to “smother me, do me a favor.”
The tasteless bit was broadcast following Gleason’s special appearance on Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback. Using a machine that tracks his eye movement to type, the 36-year old Gleason wrote a 4,500-word column touching on everything from his debilitating disease to his taste in music, even a possible link between ALS and pro football.
The voice also said “I blame Gregg Williams,” the former Saints defensive coordinator who was suspended all of last season for his role in the Bountygate scandal.
“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,” Rick Mack, 790 The Zone senior vice president and general manager, said in a prepared statement.
“We suspended the three individuals Nick Cellini, Steak Shapiro and Chris Dimino 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.”
A transcript of the segment can be found here.
Stephen Michael “Steve” Gleason is a former professional football player, a safety with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
The former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a degenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, atrophying the muscles and eventually causing paralysis.