Radio hosts fired for comments about Steve Gleason

Published On June 18, 2013 | By Sarah Kirkpatrick

Sports radio is always looking to come up with new and inventive ways to make listeners laugh. Sometimes it comes at the expense of interesting hair or wardrobe choices, a bad call during a game or a Mariners losing streak. But there’s a certain point you reach when it stops being amusing and just becomes plain offensive.

Radio hosts on Atlanta’s 790 The Zone thought it’d be funny to poke at former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 2011. Gleason’s battle with ALS makes him unable to do many simple everyday things, such as speak or use his hands. In order to communicate, Gleason has a computer program operated by typing with his eyes and giving him a voice to speak.

Exactly the opposite kind of fodder you’d want to use for a “humorous” segment on a radio show, one would think. But the hosts on “Mayhem in the A.M.” made fun of Gleason by having him “pretend to call in” and using robotic voices to imitate what he would say.

As news of this “joke” made its way around social media, the station was — understandably — bombarded with calls and complaints. The hosts of this show have been fired accordingly. The station apologized, releasing 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.”

Host Nick Cellini also tweeted, “My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid.”

Firing is of course the best move in this case, but it doesn’t make the words unsaid. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States have ALS, and there is no known cause for the disease. It is a serious medical condition that can lead to paralysis and an altered way of living. It is not something that is “funny.” Illnesses should be a taboo topic to joke about in any sort of professional sports entertainment setting, or any setting, for that matter. Besides, if your source of humor has to come from ALS or any other illness, you might want to consider a new profession. Because you aren’t funny.

You can learn more about the Team Gleason foundation or donate to this wonderful cause by visiting

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About The Author

Sarah is a Seattle native studying journalism at Boston University. She covers track and field, cross country and women’s hockey and is Sports Editor at The Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kirkpatrick_SJ.