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Shutdown Corner

Atlanta radio hosts fired after making fun of Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Steve Gleason in May, 2013. (Getty Images)

UPDATE: The three radio hosts named below have now all been fired, per the station's website. Why this wasn't the station's first response is beyond us.

If you're the kind of nimrod who thinks it's humorous to make fun of people suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) -- a disease that mercilessly takes away nearly every bodily function most of us take for granted ... well, Atlanta radio "talent" Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino, and Steak Shapiro might be your kinds of guys.

For the rest of us, however, what these three chuckleheads did on their show Monday morning for the 790 The Zone station was outrageous, unprofessional, and most certainly fireable. After former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, penned a guest column for SI.com's Peter King that went up Monday morning (Gleason penned that column with his eyes, by the way), Cellini and Shapiro went on the air and made fun of Gleason. Yes, they did.

According to Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com, the hosts set up a skit in which they pretended that Gleason was a caller to the show and set up a fake caller with a robotic voice, because the disease has robbed Gleason of his ability to speak. They then wondered, on the air, whether Gleason would be alive by next week. You can listen to the clip here if you so choose, though you should be aware that it's pretty tough to swallow.

In an obvious "CYA" move, Cellini apologized via his Twitter account.

Cellini's first tweet about the subject, however, was quite a bit less apologetic:

The station first suspended all three hosts indefinitely, which was announced by way of a boilerplate statement that isn't really worth re-running here. What Rick Mack, Senior VP and General Manager of the station, should have been asking himself is why these two individuals still have jobs. When they were fired, hours after their suspension and the subsequent outrage their comments caused, the station issued this statement:

"We deeply regret the offensive programming that aired this morning on “Mayhem In The AM” on 790 The Zone, related to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS. 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."

And since this happened on the Atlanta Falcons' flagship station, you can bet the Falcons franchise wasn't happy about it at all. The Falcons' statement:

“The Falcons are disappointed in the comments made about former Saints player Steve Gleason on a local Atlanta radio station Monday morning. 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. To single out Steve the way he was this morning is totally lacking in taste and discretion.”

As Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com so eloquently wrote today, the station needed to make this right by firing the hosts, reaching out to Gleason with a public and heartfelt apology (if they can muster one up), and making a sizable donation to Team Gleason, which Gleason and his family established to help others suffering from ALS. (You may do so here, if you would like).

Nothing else will do. Formulaic apologies don't even begin to scratch the surface when you're dealing with disgusting behavior like this. This wasn't a slip of the tongue on a radio show -- this was a premeditated attempt to ridicule a man who has worked ceaselessly to maintain his dignity, his opponent a damnable disease that does everything possible to remove it. Gleason beat ALS in that sense, so he doesn't need to worry about a couple of sub-level radio goons. But the very idea that any of them could ever appear on that station again would be an endorsement of their repugnant actions.

And that is simply unacceptable.

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