And that was the case with the mean-spirited segment aired Monday by the “Mayhem in the AM” crew on Atlanta sports-talk radio station 790 AM.
The piece made cruel fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, 36, who is in the advanced stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the condition causes its victims to gradually lose their ability to speak and move. Among other things the skit depicted Gleason, who now can communicate only via his eyes, in a tasteless series of “knock, knock” jokes, asking to be smothered to death.
Reaction to the segment was instantaneous. Listeners called for the hosts’ termination on the station’s and other Facebook pages.
The usual scenario these days would have been for management to laugh off the incident as “boys will be boys,” perhaps followed by brief suspensions and perfunctory apologies.
But not this time. “Mayhem” crew members Steve “Steak” Shapiro, Nick Cellini and Chris Dimino were first suspended and then late Monday afternoon, unceremoniously fired.
Those firings were well-deserved — even if they probably came as a shock to some of those who, after having listened to what passes for entertainment on the airwaves on some stations these days, figured there was no such thing as “too offensive.”
But there is a line between “questionable taste” and “deeply offensive,” and the 790 crew crossed over it. There is nothing funny about suffering from a terminal disease, and there is nothing humorous to be found in mocking someone afflicted with one.
Although all three of the fired DJs issued apologies, that by Cellini (posted on his Facebook page) is worth sharing:
“As a father of two girls, I put myself in a position that I have begged ... pleaded .. DEMANDED … they not put themselves in. That of the bully. The mean kid. The one who thinks what they say or do comes with no consequence. It does. It always does.
“I have no illusion as to what 19 years on the radio ... 30 years of being a grown man … and most importantly almost 10 years of being a father … and what you build up in your name and reputation over those periods of time … should and does mean.
“Now I know how quickly a stupid, and worse than that, non-thinking moment can change all of it.”
There’s a lesson there not just for DJs and radio talkers, but for all of us.