Steve Gleason: A Rare Celebrity Doing Good by Talking About His Illness

Steve Gleason: A Rare Celebrity Doing Good by Talking About His Illness

She  looks surprised.

She looks surprised.

People who know me know that I am no fan of either football or celebrity spokespeople for illnesses they have had. In that light, this blog is bound to surprise those folks.

You have probably noticed that when a famous people get sick, they often become spokespeople for the illness they have. In my memory, the first person to do this was Betty Ford, who spoke publicly about her breast cancer in 1974. (Okay, I’m old enough to remember that.) That act of courage was followed by Betty Rollin, a prominent  TV reporter, who published First You Cry about her breast cancer experience in 1976.

Since then, it’s been pretty much downhill. Some celebrities lend their names to organizations raising awareness. In breast cancer, that is so not helpful: everyone is aware

She can sing. Breast cancer advice yiour  should get elsewhere.

She can sing. Breast cancer advice your should get elsewhere.

of breast cancer already unless they live under a rock. Other celebrities give (bad) medical advice based on their experience. Sheryl Crow, for instance, told the world that her breast cancer was the result of drinking water out of plastic bottle that had  been warming in the sun on the back seat of her car. That email  travelled the world for years — coming back

like a bad penny. For all I know, it still circulates. It’s not a good thing to drink water out of plastic bottles, but neither does it give you breast cancer. Or Robin Roberts, whose breast cancer was missed by a screening mammogram, who nevertheless urged women to get mammograms.

As for football, I consider it a game of unnecessary violence, played by some people who get in trouble for

I didn't want want  a violent image in this post. Enjoy this.

I didn’t want want a violent image in this post. Enjoy this.

being violent in society, often towards women.

So when ALS folks (called PALS — People with ALS) got excited because Steve Gleason, a famous retired football player who had been safety with the New Orleans Saints, started speaking out about his ALS, I was more cautious because the breast cancer experience with famous people had been, to my mind, less than helpful.

Steve Gleason and Team Gleason — folks are

Steve Gleason, football player.

Steve Gleason, football player.

working with and supporting Steve and his family through his ALS — have persuaded me out of my caution. In fact, I’m thrilled by what they are doing.

Here’s the deal. Team Gleason ( has put together an ALS PSA (public service announcement) that will air during the Superbowl in New Orleans, where Steve and his family live. Having seen the ad on line, I hope it airs many times after the game is over. In case you won’t or didn’t watch the Superbowl, or missed the ad, you can watch it here.

What’s important about this ad from my perspective is that there is no attempt to sugar coat anything, or make people feel good about ALS. This is not an illness that is a “gift” and don’t let anyone suggest to you that is. This is ALS awareness at its best and I hope millions of people see it.

Steve Gleason, football player with ALS.

Steve Gleason, football player with ALS.

If you are on Facebook, post the ad there. Or forward this blog and encourage people to watch the ad. People need to see this.

Thanks to you Steve and Team Gleason. Lou Gehrig can finally be retired. You are giving hope to everyone affected by ALS, by raising awareness of the existence and realities of horrible but little known disease, and by calling on people to act. That is no mean trick.

© Barbara A. Brenner 2013


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14 Responses to Steve Gleason: A Rare Celebrity Doing Good by Talking About His Illness

  1. Elizabeth Brick says:

    I just watched this piece. It is amazing. I imagine that Superbowl Sunday will bring new awareness to millions. And better yet, more funding, resources, and creativity around finding a cure for ALS. Thanks for this post, Barbara…. and thanks to Team Gleason, too.

  2. Jenny says:

    Thanks Barbara. Your voice has brought a vital sound into the world of those who have never heard of ALS, and those that have. Your probably going to hate this, but I think you are a celebrity in the world of determination, class and caring! xx

  3. Leanna says:

    Thank you Barbara! And this comes from somone who lost their dad to ALS. What you have said is spot on!

  4. merrychicago says:

    Thank you for using your powers for good by writing about this!! Mr. Gleason is doing all those with ALS a great service, by drawing attention to this terrible disease. My husband was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. He is the sixth person in his family in four generations to have ALS. In the short period of time since he has been diagnosed he has lost his ability to talk, smile and swallow. He can only walk a few feet. We feel lucky that some of the muscles in his hands still work so he can work the mouse on his laptop and still communicate with us by spelling out what he wants or needs. Another affected football player is OJ Brigance of the 49ers……..He is also speaking out in a very positive way. Thanks to both these men maybe a cure will be found sooner!!!

  5. merrychicago says:

    Whoops, OJ Brigance is a Raven!! Not a 49er……….I sure don’t know football, but I do know ALS and I am still grateful for these 2 brave men.

  6. Liz says:

    He is a good and brave man. He makes all of us very proud – PALs, CALs, and the city of New Orleans,

  7. Ellen Leopold says:

    Thanks from all of us who are not football fans–we would’ve missed this ad tomorrow and it is so very well worth seeing.

  8. Valya Watson says:

    Thank you for your honest perspective on Steve Gleason, ALS and celebrity spokespersons. ALS is a horrible disease that takes your life a little bit at a time, til there is nothing left. I applaude Steve Gleason and his wife for taking a public stand on an extremely painful issue. I hope this will be the start of an awareness campaign like no other.

  9. Donna Brorby says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Barb. I hadn’t known of Steve or Team Gleason. I was glad to see the ad a few times (for others without Facebook acccounts, it is showing on the Team Gleason website) tonight. I will be watching the Super Bowl at my sister’s house tomorrow and I will hope to see the ad coming and get everyone’s attention to it. The Gleason website says it will be played “before the SB,” so those watching should tune in a little early. I would guess right before the game, to give it prominent play. Game starts, I think, at 3:30.

  10. penny rosenwasser says:

    whew! super powerful ad — thanks BB for letting us know about this, since i won’t be watching the game tomorrow, and thanks for always telling it like it is.

  11. Donna Brorby says:

    Did anyone see it before or during the Super Bowl. I thought from Steve’s site that it would play before the Super Bowl, so I watch for 20 minutes before and didn’t see it. I watched most of the game, but not half-time. I didn’t see it.

  12. Pingback: Barbara Brenner, Breast Cancer Activist, 1951-2013

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