In his courageous battle with ALS, Ravens director of player development O. J. Brigance overcomes obstacles every day.
So when Brigance heard about three Atlanta radio hosts mocking ALS-sufferer Steve Gleason on the air, Brigance reacted with typical class and focus, according to Steve Peregoy, executive director of the Brigance Brigade Foundation. Peregoy and Brigance met on Tuesday, just a few hours after the Atlanta radio hosts were fired. Instead of focusing on the controversy, Brigance hoped the attention would inspire more people to support efforts that fund ALS research and assist sufferers.
"O. J. is such an inspiration, and such a spiritual individual, who feels that all things work together for a purpose,’’ said Peregoy during a Tuesday phone interview. "He wants people to recognize that in the face of this controversy, there will be more awareness. Maybe this will set the table for assisting the efforts to find a cure. O. J. and his wife, Chanda, always very much take the high road. Bad publicity is still publicity. As negative as it is, maybe 100,000 people or so today have a better understanding of ALS and are more aware of it, and will join in the fight. This disease takes such a physical, emotional, and financial burden on its sufferers.’’
After Peregoy heard a tape of the Atlanta radio hosts mocking Gleason, he was outraged and disgusted.
"It was so ignorant, there really aren’t words to describe it,’’ Peregoy said.
Peregoy said that as of Tuesday afternoon, Brigance had not heard the segment.
"When he said they were going to try to find it, I quite honestly encouraged them not to,’’ Peregoy said. "I don’t think there would be any value in O. J. listening to it. After I listened to it, I almost wished I hadn’t.’’
Following his NFL career, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS while serving in his current job. He has been an inspiration to the Ravens and countless others, and his battle against ALS received national attention during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run. Confined to a wheelchair at age 43, Brigance still reports daily to the Ravens’ facility and is a fixture at practices. More information about his foundation can be found at brigancebrigade.org.
Gleason wrote a guest column for SI.com on Monday, and mentioned Brigance as being a mentor, someone who has helped teach Gleason how to live with ALS. Every day, it seems Brigance impacts someone.
"Our focus remains on helping as many people as possible,’’ Peregoy said.