Atlanta radio hosts associated with "Mayhem in the AM," a sports talk show on WQXI-AM, "790 The Zone," have been suspended indefinitely after running a segment poking fun at former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a degenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, atrophying the muscles and eventually causing paralysis.The segment came on the heels of Gleason guest writing Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback Column, which went live Monday morning. Gleason, who is paralyzed, described his battle with the disease in a 4,500 word column written entirely by a computer that tracked his eye movement.The radio show's hosts apparently pretended Gleason was a caller to the show, played a robotic voice that gave responses (Gleason uses a synthetic voice to speak) and wondered if Gleason would still be alive by next week.News of the segment spread quickly through social media, igniting a firestorm on Twitter from enraged listeners and former teammate Scott Fujita, who tweeted: "I'm going to reserve judgement until I hear this morning's playback from @790TheZone. But right now I'm enraged."
Rick Mack, "790 The Zone" Senior VP & General Manager, issued an apology on the station's website around 1:30 p.m. ET, a few hours after the incident. "We deeply regret the comments made by Mayhem In The AM this morning on 790 The Zone regarding former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason," the statement read. "790 The Zone, Lincoln Financial Media, our sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support the unfortunate and offensive commentary concerning Mr. Gleason this morning. The members of the show involved with this incident have been suspended indefinitely pending further management review of their actions."Initially after the segment aired, Nick Cellini, a radio host for 790-AM, tweeted "we took a shot, it backfired. Live and learn..."Three hours later, he apologized via Twitter, but didn't reference Gleason or the incident outright.
"My apologies to everyone," Cellini tweeted. "It was a stupid attempt at humor that backfired. Emphasis on stupid."
The suspensions were announced a few hours after his apology.
I've been known to push the envelope a bit, but picking on the sick and frail is never funny. Satire at its best picks on the rich, powerful, and pompous. Mocking a sick guy is just downright sickening. It doesn't matter if it's a former player from your #1 rival. Pick on someone who can defend themselves if you must mock a Saint.
Live and learn, my ass.