Rashard Mendenhall Clarifies Comments About Osama Bin Laden In Blog Post

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Do Rashard Mendenhall And Reggie Bush Examples Prove That Athletes Shouldn't Use Twitter?

In the wake of the Rashard Mendenhall / Osama Bin Laden controversy (and the subsequent Reggie Bush vacation controversy, James Walker of ESPN.com asks whether players should stay away from Twitter. The SteelersRyan Clark recently shut down his account:

“A lot of times you’re sitting at home or sitting in a restaurant when you do these things, and you’re not paying as much attention that it’s going to go out to all the people that it does and be scrutinized in that same way,” Clark explained. “But every time you step in front of a mike or step in front of a camera, you know tons of people are going to have access to this. Tons of people are going to see it.”

That’s exactly the problem, I think. It’s easy to appreciate that you shouldn’t say something that will offend your fans when you have a mic in your face. When you’re just typing something on your cell phone, that’s different. I love that athletes use Twitter. But it has always surprised me that teams let their players use it. It can be very dangerous for players who let their guards down even a little, and Walker is right to point out that the fact it’s harder to discern emotional tone in messages typed in Twitter than it would be in other contexts.

I’m not sure how relevant that is to Mendenhall or Bush, of course – Mendenhall just said what he apparently believes. Bush said he was joking, but after getting in trouble for tweeting about being on vacation, he tweeted again today about not being able to find his remote. (For more on the Reggie Bush Tweetfest, check out Canal Street Chronicles.) But the pitfalls of Twitter are many.

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Washington Post: Rashard Mendenhall Controversy An Example Of Pitfalls Of Twitter

Jason Reid of the Washington Post argues that Rashard Mendenhall's real problem this week was not necessarily his controversial views about Osama Bin Laden and 9/11, but expressing them on Twitter.

No time should be wasted contemplating most of Mendenhall’s ill-advised comments Monday on Twitter questioning Osama bin Laden’s guilt in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, whether two of the four jets hijacked that day actually brought down the World Trade Center and the U.S. government’s portrayal of the self-avowed terrorist ...

The ignorance Mendenhall and other professional athletes have exhibited about the impact of social media, however, is concerning. Their repeated poor judgment while tweeting, blogging and posting information on Facebook has often resulted in controversy, damaged reputations and public relations problems for ballclubs. Mendenhall proved his cluelessness about the powerful tool, and it’s time for athletes to finally realize that tweeting ain’t no joke.

Good point. You take a famous 23-year-old whose job is to run while holding a football and give him a platform to type little 140-character-max blurbs to a vast audience he can't see, and you're asking for trouble. (I'm not the first to make this type of observation about the Mendenhall uproar, by the way, but I can't remember who made it first.) People think stupid things, and there are a lot of us who might regret it if the world ended up caring about things we'd written on Twitter or Facebook. I think social media are probably also potentially more dangerous for athletes than being interviewed by journalists - at least with journalists you're usually just answering their questions, and you can see their reactions as you start to wander into dangerous territory. With social media, there are no reactions until after you hit submit.

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Rashard Mendenhall's Endorsement With Champion Dropped

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall’s controversial Twitter comments about Osama Bin Laden have caused him to lose his endorsement with the apparel company Champion, USA Today reports.

Champion is “ending our business relationship” with Mendenhall since the athletic brand doesn’t think he “can appropriately represent Champion,” spokesman Matt Hall told Game On! Thursday night.

This isn’t surprising, of course. Mendenhall suggested Americans were rushing to judgment on Bin Laden and that he had not been able to give his side of the story. He also said he wasn’t sure Bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on 9/11, and implied that the U.S. government was hiding the truth. These views are, if not exactly unusual in the U.S., still well outside the mainstream, and it would be surprising if Mendenhall were able to hold onto any endorsement deal at this point. I suppose this is why most athletes’ public personae are so bland.

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Rashard Mendenhall Clarifies Comments About Osama Bin Laden In Blog Post

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is clarifying his controversial recent comments about 9/11 and the death of Osama Bin Laden in a blog post. He writes that he does not support Bin Laden, and that he does support American troops.

That's when things get weird, however:

I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.

Point taken that celebrating death might seem like a weird thing to do. However, Mendenhall absolutely did question "Bin Laden's evil acts," and it's amazing that he's trying to claim otherwise. He wrote:

I'm not convinced he was even behind the attacks we have really seen no evidence to prove it other than the gov telling us

Mendenhall might not be questioning the acts themselves, but he's certainly questioning whether Bin Laden had any role in them. That tweet, and at least one other that questioned whether it would be possible for an airplane to knock over a skyscraper, have since been deleted. In his recent statement Mendenhall appears to be taking for granted that Bin Laden was behind 9/11, but that wasn't the case at all when the original series of tweets came out.

Although I think Mendenhall's original comments were idiotic, I support his right to make them, and I don't think we should shame athletes with unconventional views into silence. However, this recent blog post is less a "clarification" of what Mendenhall actually said than an attempt to pretend that a lot of what he said didn't actually happen.

For more on the Mendenhall controversy, check out this post about whether Mendenhall could be traded, and this one about the Steelers' response to his comments.

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