ATLANTA – The cast of an Atlanta sports radio show has been fired after mocking a former NFL player who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, a station official said Monday.
The show, “Mayhem in the AM,” was broadcast on 790 The Zone Monday morning. In a statement, General Manager Rick Mack said the station regrets comments made about ex-New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason.
The 36-year-old suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS patients lose the ability to speak and move, which has happened to Gleason.
Gleason played for the Saints between 2000 and 2006. The Spokane native is an alumnus of Washington State and Gonzaga Prep.
Among his foundations, Team Gleason is geared toward finding a cure for ALS, raising awareness of the disease and connecting patients to technology, equipment and services tailored to fit their needs. Gleason will be on hand Monday for the Gleason Classic golf tournament at The Golf Club at Black Rock in Coeur d’Alene. The event will raise money for several local charities, including ALS.
The radio station lists the hosts as Nick Cellini, Steak Shapiro and Chris Dimino. But Mack didn’t give the names of those fired.
During the segment, two of the on-air personalities took a call from a third host who pretended to be Gleason by using a voice that sounded automated – mimicking another famous ALS patient, Stephen Hawking.
The host pretending to be Gleason told a series of jokes and eventually asked the two others to do him a favor by smothering him.
All three took to Twitter on Monday evening to apologize to fans and others who criticized the segment. Listeners and critics turned to the station’s Facebook page to call for the hosts’ termination.
Gleason was in the news earlier Monday when he wrote a guest column for SI.com, filling in for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. In a portion of that column, Gleason explained the technology that allows him to read, write and speak:
“I have a tablet PC attached to my power wheelchair. This tablet, my command center, sits about 18 inches from my face. At the base of my tablet, I have a black bar that houses infrared cameras that track my pupils.
“From there, I have a toolbar on the right side of my tablet screen that has mouse commands: left click, right click, double click, etc. So, I look at my on-screen commands for half a second, and those commands select. …
“It works the same way with my keyboard. This is how I speak: I type whatever nonsense comes to mind, click ‘speak,’ and a synthetic voice that sounds hauntingly like my old voice belts out the nonsense for all to hear.”