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The Mendenhall Tweets
May 13, 2011 - Al Stephenson
When I was a subscriber to Sports Illustrated, I really looked forward to the swimsuit issue. Well actually not that issue, but the ones that followed. For a few weeks after the scandalous pictures of models (were they really trying to sell swimsuits?) hit the newstands, the letters to the editor made for some great reading. Everything from thanking SI for getting one reader through the winter to another person wishing to cancel their subscription - the responses were well worth reading.
Such is the case with the tweets sent out last week from Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. His controversial posts about the death of Osama Bin Laden and the collapse of the twin towers has sparked readers from all over to hit their keyboards, announcing their thoughts about Mendenhall and his ideas.
First let's quote Mendenhall. "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..."
He also said this: "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."
I was with Mendenhall for ever so briefly. I too wondered what Americans were doing celebrating in the streets of New York and Washington, D.C. I guess I understood, but I could not imagine doing it myself. Then again I have never booed a referee's call, a coaches decision or a player's failure. Many do, I just don't think it's appropriate.
The second sentence made me question where he was going with his message and then he totally lost me. I personally am not sure how a building could stand when a large jet filled with fuel slams into it at over 400 mph. So I'm not inclined to join the conspiracy theorists.
The interesting part of this controversy is reading the reactions of people who wanted to let Mendenhall know what they thought about his tweets. You know, kind of like the swimsuit letters. Here's a sampling of what I have read.
The word idiot was quite evident. Stupid and moron came in bunches. Lack of patriotism was espoused and a couple of quotes from others were used to explain the writer's feelings.
A quote from Martin Luther King backed Mendenhall's original comment. King said "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." The gist of the people who quoted Dr. King seemed to be that though they were happy that Bin Laden was captured and that justice was served, they would quietly be happy without outwardly showing it. Many people were unhappy with the people rejoicing in the Middle East when 9/11 happened. To see our own people do the same was disconcerting to many.
Another respondent quoted Mark Twain who said: "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." He went on to say that the quote summed up his feelings about the death of OBL.
Some of the other responses were a little comical. One suggested that Mendenhall's quotes just gave him another reason to hate the Steelers. Another person said he would drop Mendenhall from his fantasy team. Take that Rashard! My favorite response said this about Mendenhall - "I think he just qualified himself to run for Congress."
If nothing else, Rashard Mendenhall has stirred up a hornet's nest. The Steelers quickly made it known that they did not endorse Mendenhall's views. Champion athletic apparel dropped him as a paid endorser saying he was not the type of person that they wanted hawking their gear.
The view from my seat suggests that Rashard Mendenhall has the right to tweet anything he wants. That's the beauty of the country we live in. One can say what he wants including and especially if it's a view totally unpopular with the masses.
It doesn't mean people have to like it. There are enough people in the Pittsburgh area that are unhappy enough that it is possible the Steelers will part ways with the talented running back.
You can say what you want Rashard, but it can come back to haunt you.
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