Home > Illinois football > Mendenhall stands his ground, accepts the consequences

Mendenhall stands his ground, accepts the consequences

Rashard Mendenhall hasn’t been able to escape the backlash since he posted a steam of controversial thoughts, questioning gleeful reactions to Osama bin Laden’s death and even inferring a 9/11 conspiracy, on Twitter earlier this week.

But none of the critiques, columns and sports radio backlash seemed to hurt as much as the news yesterday that athletic wear company Champion would drop Mendenhall as an endorser, just four days after the former Illini and Pittsburgh Steelers running back inked a four-year extension with the company. It ends a three-year relationship between Mendenhall and Champion.

“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,” the company said in a statement. “Champion has appreciated its association with Mr. Mendenhall during his early professional football career and found him to be a dedicated and conscientious young athlete. We sincerely wish him all the best.”

As I’ve said on the air this week, I have no problem with Mendenhall speaking his mind on issues – even if I completely disagree with him. Despite some media and fans saying athletes should be banned from Twitter, it’s Mendenhall’s First Amendment right to speak his mind.

But if he’s to make such bold statements – a few months ago he agreed with Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson that the NFL labor situation is comparable to slave labor – he must be willing to deal with the consequences, both in verbal backlash and cuts to his wallet.

So far, Mendenhall seems up to the task.

He clarified most of his tweets in a blog, though he didn’t address a since-deleted post that read: “We’ll never know what really happened (on 9/11). I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper demolition style.”

Mendenhall eloquently refused to back down from his stance that people shouldn’t celebrate the death of any human being, even the world’s most wanted terrorist. I find that much more respectable than an agent-fueled, PR-riddled response attempting to save face. Mendenhall obviously sticks to his values and isn’t afraid to enter into the discussion most Americans were having after bin Laden was shot and killed by U.S. Navy Seals on Sunday.

Most athletes stay away from politics, notably Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Others, like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, dive into issues. The 23-year-old Mendenhall seems unafraid to speak his mind to the world, but he may want to think twice before he shares his views, especially those on conspiracy theories.

But if he’s willing to stand his ground in the process, all the power to him. Just be willing to pay for all your Champion hoodies in the future.

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Categories: Illinois football
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