PITTSBURGH (Gray News) - In what he thought would be a playful joke, a Pittsburgh news producer used a graphic that referred to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a “known cheater,” but he soon found himself out of a job.
Michael Telek, 27, told USA Today he wanted to give a “wink and nod to [Pittsburgh] Steelers fans” in Monday’s 4 p.m. news broadcast at TV station KDKA. So, the producer created a graphic that referred to Brady, despised by those who back the Steelers, as a “known cheater.”
"It was a light-hearted graphic in the news block leading into hard news. It usually is a funny bit," Telek told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I went too far."
Telek was fired the next day.
"While fans are entitled to have personal opinions, we have a journalistic responsibility to provide unbiased reporting," read a statement from KDKA. "The graphic that appeared Monday violated our news standards. The individual who created the graphic no longer works for KDKA-TV."
Telek says he should have fought the impulse to make a joke about Brady but thought, at the time, that it would be OK with Steelers fans, according to the Tribune-Review.
"I was just trying to be playful. I didn't think it would get this much attention and cost me my job," he said. "Everyone gets fired, but this was a bit extreme.”
Telek says he actually thinks Brady is a great quarterback. But now, he’s focused on finding a new job in the Pittsburgh area.
A friend created a GoFundMe, initially intended to help Telek with expenses, but the 27-year-old told USA Today he would be able to get by without it and will instead give any money donated to a Pittsburgh charity in Brady’s name.
"In all honesty, I'm just going to go start applying for jobs… and then move on with the rest of my day," he said. "It's a 24-hour news cycle. By tomorrow, everyone's going to forget about it."
In what is widely known as “Deflategate,” Brady was suspended for four games and the Patriots were fined $1 million after the NFL determined the team used under-inflated footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots, with Brady as quarterback, will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3. It will be Brady’s ninth trip to the big game, with five title wins under his belt.