Rashard Mendenhall was dropped by a corporate sponsor

By Off the BASN Wire
Updated: May 6, 2011

Rashard Mendenhall

Rashard Mendenhall

PITTSBURGH, PA–Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall was dropped by a corporate sponsor Thursday over his controversial comments about Usama bin Laden’s death.

Athletic brand Champion said it was ending its business relationship with the 23-year-old because it didn’t think he could “appropriately represent” it, USA Today reported.

“Earlier this week, Rashard Mendenhall, who endorses Champion products, expressed personal comments and opinions regarding Usama bin Laden and the September 11 terrorist attacks that were inconsistent with the values of the Champion brand and with which we strongly disagreed,” a statement from the company said.

“In light of these comments, Champion was obliged to conduct a business assessment to determine whether Mr. Mendenhall could continue to effectively communicate on behalf of and represent Champion with consumers.

“While we respect Mr. Mendenhall’s right to express sincere thoughts regarding potentially controversial topics, we no longer believe that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion and we have notified Mr. Mendenhall that we are ending our business relationship.”

On Wednesday, Mendenhall apologized for a series of tweets in which he questioned why Americans were celebrating the death of bin Laden.

He also questioned the events of 9/11 in remarks posted after news of the terror chief’s demise broke Sunday. His comments prompted an angry backlash on Twitter and criticism across the sports world.

In a blog called “Clarification,” Mendenhall wrote Wednesday that his tweets were misconstrued, and said he did not mean to imply support for the al Qaeda leader or any anti-American sentiment.

“First, I want people to understand that I am not in support of bin Laden, or against the USA,” he wrote. “I understand how devastating 9/11 was to this country and to the people whose families were affected. Not just in the US, but families all over the world who had relatives in the World Trade Centers.

“My heart goes out to the troops who fight for our freedoms everyday, not being certain if they will have the opportunity to return home, and the families who watch their loved ones bravely go off to war.”

He added that the tweets were not meant to cause harm or pain.

“I apologize to anyone I unintentionally harmed with anything that I said, or any hurtful interpretation that was made and put in my name.”

Following Sunday night’s news of bin Laden’s killing by US Navy SEALs, Mendenhall wrote on his Twitter account, “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 went on to say, “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

In his blog Wednesday, Mendenhall said the tweets were “only meant to encourage [people] to think.”

He added that he found it hypocritical for Americans to celebrate someone’s death.

“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,” he wrote.