Unless you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’ll usually have a hard time offending me. However, I was pretty taken aback on Monday as news broke from the actions of three Atlanta-based radio hosts mocking the disability of former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason.
To the city of New Orleans, Gleason’s contribution during a single play ended up symbolizing the turning point for a city that was looking to piece their lives together following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on Louisiana. The play was so iconic in the recovery for New Orleans, Gleason’s block is now memorialized with a statue outside of the Superdome.
Unfortunately, Gleason revealed five years later that he suffers from ALS, a terminal affliction commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gleason is now confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak. For Gleason to communicate, he must speak through a computer, controling it with his eyes, as he can no longer move his hands. The hosts – who have now been fired for their actions – mocked Gleason’s speaking through a computer during a fake interview, which turned into bone-chilling awkwardness seconds after it began.
If you feel like cringing, here’s the audio link of the incident.
Ravens fans are familiar with ALS as it has struck close to home with former linebacker O.J. Brigance. The man affectionately known as “Juice” won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 and was diagnosed with ALS in 2007. Over the past few years, the effects of Brigance’s battle with ALS have become extremely evident, as he’s lost primary function over the majority of his body. As heartbreaking it is to see, “Juice” continues to use his celebrity to spread awareness and raise money for ALS through his many charitable efforts including the Brigance Brigade.
Chances are, these radio hosts haven’t been around anyone affected by ALS or they wouldn’t have made the jokes that they did. I cannot speak for Gleason as I’ve never met him or seen him in person, and I only witness Brigance from afar while at the Ravens facility. Regardless, it’s heartbreaking to hear that someone could stoop so low to take a shot at someone who is literally fighting for every breath.
Brigance is currently employed by the Ravens as their Director of Player Development and lights up any room he enters. Even though those in his presence can only feel sorry for the cards that such a great man has been dealt, they enjoy any bit of time they’re able to spend with him.
I’m not typically someone who complains about what I see on TV or hear on the radio. I purposefully subscribe to satellite radio and cable services like HBO so I can be free of most censorship and over-dramatic reactions from the vocal minority, but I feel that this incident with Mayhem in the A.M. is on a completely different level. After listening to the audio multiple times, I don’t believe that all of the members of the radio show wanted to go along with the bit once it started. In fact, two of them even made statements questioning if they should stay involved.
As for punishment, is taking away the income of three individuals and affecting their families a fair punishment for their actions? Probably not. However, even though all of the hosts have issued apologies, which have been accepted by Gleason, I believe something else could be done to make sure they’ve learned their lesson, and perhaps keep their jobs after a long suspension.
Why not make these hosts spend a week with either Gleason or Brigance? From what I’ve seen, spending time with either of these individuals is far from a punishment; rather, it’s a blessing. They’ll hopefully learn from their actions and a week’s worth of awkwardness is enough to make them think about ever stepping over the line again.