SBD/June 18, 2013/Media

Atlanta's WQXI-AM Fires Morning Show For Mocking Former Saints Player Steve Gleason

Gleason wrote of his struggles with ALS in this week's MMQB column for SI.com
Nick Cellini, Chris Dimino and Steak Shapiro, the hosts of Atlanta-based WQXI-AM's "Mayhem in the AM," were fired "after doing a mock interview that made fun" of former NFLer Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed in '11 with ALS, according to Carla Caldwell of the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE. During the on-air segment, the hosts "pretended to interview Gleason and inserted a fake robotic voice." WQXI posted a statement on their website that read in part, "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." All three hosts subesquently apologized either on Facebook or Twitter for the skit (BIZJOURNALS.com, 6/18). In Atlanta, Rodney Ho reported the audio bit features Cellini "pretending to be Gleason doing not terribly funny 'knock knock' jokes and 'interviewed' by Shapiro and Dimino." Shapiro "co-owned the station for 13 years," but it was sold to Lincoln Financial in '10, and Shapiro has been a "paid employee ever since." Cellini said that the bit "was an excuse ... for the station to cut salary and insert a cheaper syndicated morning show." Meanwhile, Shapiro said that the clip is "not representative of what they had done four hours a day for years" (ACCESSATLANTA.com, 6/17). In New Orleans, Katherine Terrell noted WQXI-AM has "the rights to broadcast Falcons' games." Although the Falcons "weren't involved with the incident, they later issued a statement about it." The segment came "on the heels of Gleason guest writing" Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback Column for SI.com (NOLA.com, 6/17). Meanwhile, the Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan noted the Falcons made a "classy move" by issuing a statement "condemning Atlanta radio hosts for making fun of Steve Gleason" (TWITTER.com, 6/17).

TWITTER REAX: SI's Thomas Lake wrote on his Twitter feed, "Sometimes we take offense too easily. But audio clip shows Steve Gleason radio bit was even worse than you thought." The N.Y. Post's Mike Vaccaro: "I like to think of myself as impossible to offend. Those Atlanta radio mouth-breathers who mocked Steve Gleason pulled off the impossible." NBC's Michele Tafoya wrote, "Finally heard Steve Gleason radio 'bit' from ATL. Gleason is a courageous, smart, funny, beautiful person. Radio 'bit' an unfunny disgrace." MSP Sports Founder Tim McGhee wrote, "Sometimes, I can't fathom some people's cruelty." USA Today's Dan Wolken wrote, "After hearing the Atlanta radio bit, I'm not sure how someone could come up with that and think it was anything but cruel." Director of Tulane Sports Law Program Gabe Feldman wrote, "Shame on 790 for making fun of a horrible disease. Shame on us if it distracts us from @team_gleason's powerful words." The National Post's Bruce Arthur: "From @itsdeanblundell mocking a dead Oilers prospect to an Atlanta radio station making fun of Steve Gleason, shock radio should be proud." FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez: "In honor of @team_gleason I will not appear on @790thezone in atlanta for the 2013 nfl season. Other media types are welcome to follow suit."
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