Saturday, May 7, 2011


Once again the controversial reaction of a public figure has generated almost as much attention as the original, much larger story. This one has a lot of legs that will keep running for some time perhaps unlike this great running back.

Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rashard Mendenhall's contentious remarks on Twitter regarding the death of Osama bin-Laden and 9/11 points out again that idiots can also offer their opinions on the Internet and especially so in our new, rarified, dynamic, aye, spontaneous social media. Many reasonably expect that our celebrities have the responsibility, aye, obligation to be positive role models, especially for the younger generation. That said, celebrities have most recently offered renewed proof that they are not only fallible but can lead the charge to absurdity (Vick, Lohan, Sheen, et al). We can now add Mendenhall to that list. While Mendenhall has a right to express his opinions – he has proved that he doesn’t deserve our respect. His remarks included this tidbit:

"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."

As for those largely spontaneous celebrations - they appeared to be celebrations of victory and were understandable and in line with the death of one who has caused so much pain and upset throughout the world. Yea, we finally got him. Didn’t you just love the spontaneous celebration at the Phillies and Mets baseball game in Philadelphia when the news hit the cell phones of those in attendance. Even though no formal announcement was ever made, chants of "USA" started around the top of the ninth inning and continued throughout the remainder of the game. Mendenhall is going to be a big hit in Philly if and when the Steelers and Eagles ever play another game…and if Mendenhall is still a Steeler. Didn’t you just love Michael Vick’s take on bin Laden’s passing?

Around the country thousands of our citizenry gathered in public places to cheer and celebrate the news. They were celebrations of the victory of good over evil… Mendenhall just didn’t get that.

Mendenhall’s, “We've only heard one side” remark and conjecture whether the World Trade Center towers were only brought down on 9/11 by crashing two hijacked airliners into the buildings cast great doubt on which planet he resides (proud Illini take note). Bin Laden on many occasions gleefully admitted his actions and accepted full responsibility for the 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. His many videotaped harangues, threats and general orders are well documented and were broadcast around the world. Bin Laden, the self-styled leader of terrorism in the world (he was no scholar) issued three very public fatwahs calling upon Muslims to take up arms against the United States. When terrorists joined al Qaeda they pledged a personal oath of allegiance to bin Laden. I could go on but what’s the point.

Mendenhall is now starting to pay for his unfathomable, irresponsible comments. As one blogger of note put it, Mendenhall’s remarks represent a, “fatal rectal/cranial inversion.” We agree and note that the Champion Company (owned by Sara Lee who also owns Hanes, Playtex, Bali, L’eggs, etc) abruptly ended its endorsement deal with Mendenhall over his Twitter remarks. Mendenhall’s boss, Steeler Owner Art Rooney II (Rooney has close ties with President Obama) has addressed his remarks and distanced the Steelers from Mendenhall, “… it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.” Aside from embarrassing the Steelers, worst of all, Mendenhall has earned the enmity of most of our citizenry. That would appear to be the worst of it all though if I was one of his offensive lineman, I sure wouldn’t block for him…

Mendenhall has tried to “clarify his remarks” and really didn’t offer an apology. His recent statement follows.

“First, I want people to understand that I am not in support of Bin Laden, or against the USA. 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.

This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics.”

Later in his statement he offered. “I apologize for the timing as such a sensitive matter, but it was not meant to do harm," Mendenhall continued. "I apologize to anyone I unintentionally harmed with anything that I said, or any hurtful interpretation that was made and put in my name. It was only meant to encourage anyone reading it to think."

Well, Rashard, you sure made me think, especially about your original Tweet and now your characterization of bin Laden’s richly deserved, abrupt departure from this earthly plane as “murder” rather than ultimate justice. Rashard, your backhanded apology was meant more to salvage what little positive reputation you have left. You should have known the effect your words would have had - especially on the 9/11 Victim’s Families and Friends.

I have always encouraged a productive debate of all issues but you are coming from Pluto and beyond and demonstrate an incredible ignorance of basic facts. You come across as yet another uneducated conspiracy theorist with little or no grasp on reality. You should have realized that as a successful professional athlete (you say slave?) your preposterous words would receive an increased scrutiny.

I tried to be fair and read your Tweets noting that at least one of your more controversial statements has been deleted. I read your “Clarification” and found it to be self-serving pulp. It was poorly crafted and no doubt written by you. Recommend that you get a good PR firm or let your agent work through this one.

I did like your retweet invoking or at least insinuating some ancient Islamic wisdom, “It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.” You then added, “Solution, DON'T ARGUE. #islam #wisdom #think.” That statement is especially poignant for this post.

But, I recognized its origins - far from some Muslim sage. Rather, that phrase was first uttered by William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941), American politician, Georgian by birth who attended the University of Tennessee who studied and practiced law and was later vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1912; Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1918); Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Farm Loan Board, and the War Finance Corporation; practiced law in New York City in 1919 and Los Angeles, California in 1922 where he later distinguished himself as a Senator from California (D) and later an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 1920 and 1924. McAdoo is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Whoops! Perhaps from this point on you should think before you Tweet or make any statement about anything though folks are going to remember this one for a long time. Heck, it’s already in your Internet profile. Thankfully, though, you ultimately won’t even be a footnote in history. Heck, you weren’t even mentioned in today’s Sports section of the Dallas Morning News.

Have you heard the talk on the Internet about your impending free agency? Some folks have you in Canada already though one Canadian already told me they don’t want you. Maybe you can sing backup for the Dixie Chicks? In the meantime some folks have offered that your “re-education” might be a good start on the path to recovery though duct taping your thumbs to your fingers and distancing yourself from folks who think your remarks are right on would also be in order.

But, who gives a damn what you think, anyway?


Ned Buxton


Anonymous said...

I support Rashard and his 1st Amendment right to question with boldness and express his opinion. I disagree with your article and will be boycotting Sara Lee Corp and all of it's products.

--Johnson said...

While I didn’t openly display I was happy Osama was gone, I did have a puffy feeling in my chest that next morning. As an American, yes, I think there was a sense of victory and accomplishment that a known-enemy of not only the US, but the western world in was gone. My brother-in-law , a grunt, for the Marines was more than thrilled and marked the date as a celebrated accomplishment.

Mendenhall’s INITIAL comments on Twitter went against the grain of “American” thought but were still legitimate and worth noting. Celebrating a death is never right, and the blood-lust of our nation was less than appealing. Americans celebrate the right of trial and conservatism and letting the law run its course because in the end, Justice Will Be Served.

However, our military made the correct decision considering the circumstances they faced. All instances in which lives are lost should be considered circumstantial and as a whole the American people trust those they put in power to make a judgment when those tough decisions are faced in the heat of battle.
Considering the circumstantial facts there will always be a conspiracy theorist that naysays everything the government does/says (that sits uninterrupted in his parents’ basement or, in this case, on Heinz Field). Where Mendenhall lost me was 9/11, all thoughts before and after that left little effect on my psyche to consider him as an opinion worth my while. To take away from the FACTS and families that lost loved ones on that day is both disrespectful and ignorant, 9/11 is not debatable, it happened and we must now, as a collective nation, step forward.