Fired Radio Hosts Apologize To Steve Gleason For Skit Mocking Lou Gehrig's Disease
After being fired for an insensitive skit mocking a former NFL player with ALS, one of the DJ's from the radio show admitted that he would have been offended if he had heard his own broadcast.
In an interview with CNN, Steak Shapiro admitted that the hosts of the "Mayhem in the AM" radio show on 790 The Zone in Atlanta went over the line after airing a skit mocking former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason. Gleason, who played in the NFL for seven years before retiring in 2007, is currently suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the baseball player, who died from ALS in 1941.
The illness has inhibited Gleason's ability to walk and even talk. Instead, he uses a computer which allows him to type with his eyes and use the computer to speak for him (similar to those used by Roger Ebert and Stephen Hawking). The morning show decided to spoof that aspect of Gleason's illness by performing a skit where a pretend Gleason would tell knock-knock jokes in a robotic-like voice. The punch lines of many of the jokes were in poor taste, with lines like "Smother me, do me a favor."
Due to the backlash from the skit, Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini were fired on Monday evening.
"We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following the 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," said the station's general managers Rick Mack in a statement.
During his interview on Tuesday, Shapiro offered no defense for their ill-fated sketch.
"The pressure is to try to do a good radio show, and that wasn't a good moment, Shapiro recalled. "It was a horrible moment."
"You walk a fine line trying to be somewhat on the edge. We blew it in a huge way."
When asked whether he would have been offended if he was a listener tuning into the skit, Shapiro admitted, "I would have been offended."
While Gleason is a New Orleans icon who blocked a punt in the first Saints game after Hurricane Katrina, Shapiro attended Tulane University in New Orleans and met and married his wife in the city. He named his a daughter NOLA as a tribute to the vibrant city.
"It's a place I understand their passions and their heroes, said Shapiro, a 16-year radio veteran. "And to make fun of those, it's an awful thing. I feel awful about it."
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