CBS Pittsburgh television affiliate KDKA confirmed Wednesday that they have fired an employee who created a graphic describing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a “known cheater.”
— Noah M. Vereb (@nvereb) January 28, 2019
The graphic aired during one of KDKA’s Monday newscasts, and was quickly shared on Twitter and picked up by outlets including Sports Illustrated.
On Wednesday, KDKA informed SI.com that the employee who created the graphic no longer works at the station. A KDKA spokesperson confirmed that statement with Boston.com.
“While fans are entitled to have personal opinions, we have a journalistic responsibility to provide unbiased reporting,” KDKA said in a statement. “The graphic that appeared Monday violated our news standards. The individual who created the graphic no longer works for KDKA-TV.”
“Known cheater” is likely a reference to Brady’s role in the deflated football scandal that earned him a four-game suspension from the NFL during the 2016 season. Deflategate has polarized fans and even inspired a young Kentucky student to make a science project asking, “Is Tom Brady a cheater?” Brady is currently preparing to play in his 9th career Super Bowl this Sunday in Atlanta.
On Wednesday, a Pittsburgh man named Michael Telek took to Twitter to confirm he was the KDKA employee fired for running the graphic.
Hi there, I got fired for this joke. I just bought a house so that is putting a pinch on things. Once I land a job there will be a GOAT Giveaway where I will donate the money to charity in Tom Brady's name.https://t.co/KzXhpbuOpF
— Michael Telek (@mktelek) January 30, 2019
Telek told Boston.com he’s been ‘stunned’ at the reaction over the last 48 hours over what he thought would be a ‘harmless joke’ that, according to him, aired on television screens for only two seconds.
“I thought I would put in ‘known cheater’ because he was suspended by the NFL for Deflategate,” Telek, 27, said. “I thought it would be a way to make people laugh and happy. I thought in the worst case they would say, ‘Hey, don’t do that again.’
“I would never have thought they would fire me for that, but here we are.”
Telek even said he loves Tom Brady and called him the best player in the NFL.
“Every time they play the Steelers I’m like, ‘Tom Brady’s going to kill them.’ When they’re in the playoffs, I’m like, ‘Tom Brady’s going to win the Super Bowl because that’s all he does.'”
Telek said on Monday he was told he would be written up for airing the graphic and was not fired until Tuesday afternoon.
Telek’s friends created a GoFundMe campaign in his name, fundraising on the idea that the graphic he aired brought Pittsburgh natives joy. While Telek said he does need to find a job soon, he does not want any money raised by the GoFundMe.
“I don’t want people to think I’m a charity case or abusing the system because people really do use GoFundMe for things like that,” Telek said. “Whatever money we make, I’m going to have it go to charity in Tom Brady’s name.”