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 on Monday morning. In a statement, general manager Rick Mack said the station regrets comments made about former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason.
The 36-year-old Gleason suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 2011. ALS patients lose the ability to speak, move and eat, which has happened to Gleason.
He wrote a column SI.com on Monday, using technology that allows him to use his eyes to write, detailing his life with the disease, his interactions with his 19-month-old son Rivers, and his efforts to help others with ALS.
"I am well into the disease progression. I am unable to walk, talk or eat. In some ways, this stage of the process is less frustrating than previous stages. I often feel normal. I forget that it's weird to eat through a tube or be in a wheelchair. Still, I can't deny that it's a struggle," he wrote.
Team Gleason, an organization named after the former NFL player, 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.
790 The Zone 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 ALS patient, world-renowned physicist 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.
The Atlanta Falcons issued a statement on Monday denouncing the radio hosts' comments.
"The content concerning Mr. Gleason was completely inappropriate and is not representative of the views of the Falcons organization, nor does it represent the way we conduct our business on and off the field," the statement said. "To single out Steve the way he was this morning is totally lacking in taste and discretion."
Gleason played for the Saints between 2000 and 2006.
I’d heard an objection on a show this morning that the hosts should be protected by the First Amendment.
First off, sometimes a joke, no matter how funny it may be, shouldn’t be shared. This was in poor taste, and just mean.
But you got your first amendment privileges and were able to do the routine on the air.
But the First Amendment does not guarantee you a job. So when advertisers, fans and Atlanta officials started exerting pressure, the axe had to fall.
Want to see my impression of an out-of-work morning sports radio host? It’s a riot!