On Sunday night, around 11:30 p.m. eastern time, President Barack Obama announced that 25 elite Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in a mansion in Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan, nearly 10 years after bin Laden organized the attack on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and whatever was the target of Flight 93, and which ultimately led to the War on Terror. It instantly gave Americans all over reason to celebrate and, in this day in age of social media, prompted athletes to take to their Twitter accounts. Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman tweeted – @shawnemerriman: “They got his ass”….#USA. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm tweeted – @Maholm28: “Karma is a bitch. It took awhile but it’s awesome. bin Laden is gone. Thanks to all those who serve. God bless”. Most notably, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall gave his opinion on what happened and well, Mendenhall’s views differ from that of most people.
“What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…,” Mendenhall tweeted Monday at R_Mendenhall. “We’ll never know what really happened (on September 11th). I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.” The outrage over Mendenhall’s comments has been at an all-time high during the past 24-plus hours. Steelers fans have said that he is “dead to” them and that the Steelers need to trade him. Some say he is anti-American and no matter what he does on the field, they won’t ever support him again. It has gotten so much publicity, that Mendenhall is the number one topic on Google trends.
Steelers’ President Art Rooney said, “I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
What’s my response to this? I don’t think Mendenhall is in the wrong at all with what he said. Mind you, I DON’T agree with a word that he said, but he is within his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Did he go about it in the wrong way? Absolutely, and he only has himself to blame for the backlash that he is and will continue to receive. He can’t expect his teammates to have his back on this and can expect hearty booing from fans at Heinz Field as well as visiting stadiums this coming season. The worst thing about this is that it isn’t his first time making controversial comments via Twitter.
A month ago, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings said that the NFL Lockout is like modern day slavery. Mendenhall said that he backs Peterson and agreed with his analogy. Mendenhall has also very recently said some explicit things about his views on women and oral sex. The bottom line here is that Mendenhall wants to be known as “a conversationalist” as well as a football player. But, as a fan, you shouldn’t care what he has to say. All that matters is that he is one of 52 men that wear a Steelers jersey and he is good at his job. Do you have to like him as a person? No, you don’t. Will the people who said he is “dead to” them be cheering if he scores a game-winning touchdown on opening day (ironically enough, opening day is September 11th this year)? More than likely, they will.
Mendenhall’s opinion doesn’t matter anymore than yours or mine does. The fact that he is a public figure makes it stand out, and what he said may have ignored some facts (such as we have heard bin Laden on recordings that he has released taking the “credit” for orchestrating the 9/11 attack), but these don’t make what he did wrong. He doesn’t deserve a suspension, to be released, or to be reprimanded at all. Rooney and Coach Mike Tomlin do need to sit Mendenhall down, however, and talk to him about what he’s saying publicly. He can have his opinion and his freedom of speech, but he needs to keep it out of the public eye or suffer the consequence of his actions.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com