Georgia Radio Hosts Fired for Mocking Ex-NFL Player With ALS

The radio hosts made fun of former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason.

June 18, 2013 — -- Three Georgia sports radio hosts have been fired after making fun of a former NFL player who has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

The hosts and the radio station have since apologized, with one calling the bit a "moronic 2 mins" on the air.

The jokes were about former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, 36, who suffers from ALS.

ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the nerve cells die, messages cannot be sent to the muscles, which slowly leads to weakening and the inability to move. Patients often die within three to five years of diagnosis.

The hosts of Atlanta-base radio station 790 The Zone's show "Mayhem in the AM" made the jokes on their Monday morning show.

The jokes happened during a discussion of Gleason being guest columnist for Sports Illustrated's column "Monday Morning Quarterback" while columnist Peter King is on vacation. Gleason wrote about living with ALS and mentioned using "eye tracking" technology to type and do other things.

On the radio show, the hosts joked that Gleason had "called in" to their show and they had a robotic voice pretending to be him telling tasteless knock knock jokes that poked fun at Gleason and his illness.

The station posted a statement on its Facebook page saying they "deeply regret the offensive programming."

"We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following their comments and have since terminated their employment," the statement said. "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."

The station has not named the three employees who were fired, but the show's hosts were Nick Cellini, Steve "Steak" Shapiro and Chris Dimino who all took to their Twitter accounts to apologize.

"My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid," Cellini tweeted.

Noting that they "all got wacked" from their jobs, Cellini said, "got what I deserved." He also wrote that he personally apologized to Gleason and was "profoundly sorry."

"I have so many people I have to apologize to. I know this is not who I am...but it is who I am today," Dimino tweeted. "An apology here means nothing if I don't reach out to all the people I need to. I am in that process as we speak. Friends and family and most importantly those I know I hurt."

Shapiro tweeted that he helped start the radio station after Dimino named it.

"I love the people and city of New Orleans, always have, always will, @team_gleason [Gleason's Twitter account] I will work tirelessly to make this up to you," Shapiro wrote.

"What is so ironic is that I went to Tulane, love New Orleans and love the @steve_gleason story, what a moronic 2 mins, I am truly sorry," he continued. "ALS is not a joke, bit or game."

Gleason took to his own Facebook to thank the public for their support following the radio show.

"The DJs have provided genuine apology. Received and accepted," he wrote. "We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are."

He added that the situtation started a conversation and said he believed everyone can learn from it.

"It's clear to me that, on a national & global scale, ALS is not understood, which is part of why it's underfunded and largely ignored," Gleason said. "In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Let's talk about this...There are zero treatments for ALS. If you take any action as a result of this event, I prefer it to be action to end ALS."

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