One of the most vile, reprehensible, regrettable episodes of this year in sports was when 3 Atlanta radio hosts aired a vignette that mocked former Saints player Steve Gleason, who has been courageously fighting ALS. The pre-planned bit featured hosts Steven "Steak" Shapiro, Chris Dimino, and Nick Cellini of 790 The Zone in Atlanta doing knock knock jokes with Cellini impersonating Gleason and saying things like "smother me."
The station acted swiftly, firing all three hosts the day of the Gleason segment.
That was June. Five months later would you believe that 2 of the 3 hosts are already working at another Atlanta sports station?
Last week it was announced that Steak Shapiro would be joining 680 The Fan in Atlanta as co-host of their morning show. According to AccessAtlanta.com, Shapiro starts on January 2nd on The Front Row with Brian Finneran and Sandra Golden. In fact, Shapiro is apparently already working at the station as a fill-in host before his full-time gig begins.
But that's not all. It flew way under the radar, but Dimino was also hired by 680 AM all the way back in September. Dimino hasn't been seen yet on the airwaves though because of a non-compete clause that will keep him off the air until March. Nevertheless, he's been doing work behind the scenes for his new employer for a few months now. Here's more on Dimino's hiring, again from AccessAtlanta.com. It explains why Dimino and then Shapiro have found work while Cellini, the one who impersonated Gleason, is still without a job:
"Dimino, to many who heard the bit that got Mayhem in the AM fired in June, was the least culpable. Nick Cellini came up with the idea to play knock-knock jokes with a robotic-voiced Steve Gleason, the former Saints player who has the denegenerative nerve disease ALS. If you listen to the abbreviated two-minute bit, Dimino expressed reservations from the get go and stayed largely silent. The story went national after a Saints fan board posted about it and a former Saints player complained about it in Tweet. He, Cellini and Steak Shapiro were suspended, then fired hours later."
It's amazing to think Dimino and Shapiro could find employment considering the toxicity of their situation and the short amount of time that has elapsed. The Gleason segment wasn't just in poor taste, it was one of the worst, most ill-advised moments in the history of sports broadcasting.
Then again, no industry offers mulligans quite like sports talk radio. One just has to look at this list of the most notable offenders from the last couple years and find not just second chances, but third and fourth chances as well. If Dan Sileo can be hired and fired multiple times in one year, anything is possible.
A similar situation happened in Columbus to what we're seeing in Atlanta. Scott Torgerson was fired from WBNS after his offensive tweet about Desmond Howard. Soon thereafter he joined WLVQ in Columbus to co-host a morning zoo program and all is well once again. If you can resonate in a market and connect with listeners (aka bring in ratings and sponsorship $$$) then you'll find always find open doors, no matter the size or scope of your transgressions.
I'll always support forgiveness and second chances. If Shapiro and Dimino have paid their debt and made amends then more power to them. But I wonder if this quick turnaround for the pair sends the message that it's fine to cross boundaries in sports talk radio as long as you can still draw an audience and a reaction. I wonder if it sends the message that even the most deplorable and misguided attempts at humor and jockularity can be easily forgotten if you just have name recognition.
Forget second and third chances – how many hard working, talented sports talk radio hosts who haven't managed to give the industry a bad name are out there who would give anything for a first chance?