Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is suing HanesBrands, Inc., which is the parent company of Champion, which dumped Mendenhall as an endorser after Mendenhall's controversial comments regarding Osama bin Laden.â†µ
The complaint says Champion's decision to end its endorsement deal with Mendenhall in May, days after he questioned the public celebration of bin Laden's death, violates a contract extension the two parties signed in 2010, worth more than $1 million. Mendenhall first signed a deal to endorse Champion products when he entered the league in 2008.â†µ
"For Rashard, this really is not about the money. This is about whether he can express his opinion," said Steven Thompson, a Chicago-based attorney representing Mendenhall.â†µ
I'm not sure this is relevant. Mendenhall's attorney seems (deliberately, I'm sure) to be confusing the right to free speech. Free speech allows us to say what we want, within certain limits; it does not force others to associate with us when we say something they don't like. The language of Mendenhall's contract suggested that Champion could drop him if the public got upset over something he said. So I'm not at all clear what the company has done wrong here.â†µ
For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.