Former NFL safety Steve Gleason has released an official statement after radio hosts in Atlanta were fired for a segment in which they mocked the former New Orleans Saints standout's battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In a post on his Team Gleason Facebook page, Gleason thanked fans for their outcries of support and noted that the radio personalities had apologized for their part in the incident.
Here is Gleason's full statement:
Regarding the DJ skit in Atlanta yesterday. I would like to thank the public for their support. 'Defend Team Gleason' now has been officially redefined. Additionally, the DJs have provided genuine apology. Received and accepted. We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are.
I think everyone can learn from this event. Its clear to me that, on a national & global scale, ALS is not understood, which is part of why its under funded and largely ignored. In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Lets 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. See what we are doing to change that @ teamgleason.org. SG
During Monday's Mayhem In The AM radio show on Atlanta's 790 The Zone station, hosts Steven "Steak" Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini took part in a skit in which they made fun of Gleason's ALS diagnosis.
Here is the full audio. (Warning: This content contains offensive remarks.)
As his condition has deteriorated, Gleason is now unable to use his hands, speak or communicate on his own volition. He communicates through a computer program, which he controls through his eyes.
Gleason was the guest writer for Peter King of Sports Illustrated's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column this week, where he spoke at length about his diagnosis in 2011 and how life has adjusted in the years since.
Using that as a platform for attempted humor, the radio hosts engaged in a mock interview with Gleason on Monday. They used a computer program to automate his voice in the same manner as the program he uses to communicate, telling knock-knock jokes and engaging in other sophomoric humor. At one point in the interview, the faux Gleason says he doesn't know how much longer he will live.
The story was first picked up on by a post on TigerDroppings.com. It then took on a life of its own, with many across all platforms of media—both inside the NFL and outside—decrying the segment as being in poor taste.
Upon heading the segment and the feedback from the local community, the station's senior vice president and general manager, Rick Mack, released a statement apologizing to Gleason and noting that the three hosts were terminated:
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.
According to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, Nick Cellini took to Twitter after the segment aired and apologized for his part in the incident.
“My apologies to everyone. It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid,” Cellini tweeted.
Cellini has since deleted his Twitter account. He also pledged to donate earnings to Gleason's Team Gleason charity in an interview with NOLA.com's Katherine Terrell.
Gleason, who went undrafted out of Washington State in 2000, went on to have a lengthy NFL career with the Saints from 2000 to 2007. Mostly a special teams standout, he is most beloved in New Orleans for a blocked punt in the Saints' home opener against the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. The game was New Orleans' first back at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.
Since retiring in 2008, Gleason has worked hard at raising awareness for ALS. His Team Gleason charity raises funds to find a cure for the disease, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which does not currently have successful treatments.
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