Steve Gleason used to be a safety for the New Orleans Saints. The former football player is currently focusing on a much more important and difficult battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, making it all the more horrible that three Atlanta radio hosts were fired after making fun of his plight on air.
ESPN 790 The Zone’s “Mayhem in the Am” cast was the group responsible for the tasteless sketch. The three broadcasters all lost their jobs as a result of a joke done in poor judgement following Gleason’s appearance on Sports Illustrated’s ‘Monday Morning Quarterback.’
The appearance on ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ was an inspirational one that in no way deserves such treatment. His 4,500 word piece was composed using a machine that tracks eye movement converted to type as his pen and paper. The touching column informed us on a wide array of subjects. Ranging from life interests such as his taste in music, all the way towards a possible link between Lou Gehrig’s disease and playing in the NFL, he also explained in detail his fight with the disease. His charity, Team Gleason, was also featured in his writing.
Somehow finding this to be an opportunity to mock Gleason, Steven “Steak” Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini, the host of “Mayhem in the AM” began the sketch that would see the three fired from radio, by discussing his appearance on “Monday Morning Quarterback.” They later staged a phone call with Gleason, where the former safety was portrayed with a fake robotic voice, similar to the one Steven Hawking uses to speak.
Their conversation eventually evolved to a point where ‘Gleason’ was telling the trio knock knock jokes that at one point suggested that the three “smother me, do me a favor.” As if they couldn’t get any more low brow, they decided to throw former defensive coordinator for the Saints, Greg Williams under the bus. The voice pretending to be Gleason blamed Williams, who was suspended all of last season for his role in the Bountygate scandal, for his coming down with the disease.
You can listen to the program below.
In his piece on “Monday Morning Quarterback” Steve Gleason explained his plight with the disease in a way that hardly begged the mocking of three Atlanta radio hosts. At one point he explains that:
“It’s a terminal disease with an average lifespan of two to five years post-diagnosis, and scientists don’t know what causes it. ALS prevents your brain from talking to your muscles. As a result, muscles die. As a result, every 90 minutes people die. I am a person,” wrote Gleason, who types using his eyes. “ALS does not affect cognitive process. Stephen Hawking, one of smartest people on the planet, has ALS. It rarely affects the eyes. It doesn’t affect senses like hearing, taste and touch. I cannot move them, but I can feel, and very much enjoy when you take my hands in yours. No, you do not have to yell, or use one syllable words. I can hear you, and I have above average intelligence. Still.”
Initially only suspending the three hosts, ESPN 790 ultimately fired the tasteless comedians following the story becoming viral. In a statement release on their website, management at ESPN 790 said that: “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.”
Cellini apologized for his actions in the incident on his Twitter page, saying that “we took a shot and it backfired…live and learn.” Later he Tweeted “my apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid.”
Remaining positive despite being mocked by Atlanta radio hosts, Steve Gleason released the following statement from the director of Team Gleason, Clare Durrett:
“At this time, we don’t feel the need to issue a statement as it just takes time away from the important things Steve and Team Gleason are doing. Currently, Steve is enjoying a much needed vacation in the Northwest and spending time with friends and family. He is having an extraordinary day so far, having been the guest writer for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback and is now interviewing Pearl Jam.”
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express