Days following his controversial Twitter posts, Mendenhall has been cut from his Champion sportswear endorsement deal. In response to America’s celebration of Osama bin Laden’s death, Mendenhall tweeted:
“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…”
“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
This lead to much media criticism and debates on free speech and whether athletes should be allowed on Twitter. Mendenhall, is widely recognized as one of the league’s intellectuals so his left field statements aren’t a total surprise but the day following his posts he did issue an apology for any misunderstanding.
Champion sent the following statement to ESPN.com Friday:
“Champion is a strong supporter of the government’s efforts to fight terrorism and is very appreciative of the dedication and commitment of the U.S. Armed Forces. Earlier this week, Rashard Mendenhall, who endorses Champion products, expressed personal comments and opinions regarding Osama bin Laden and the September 11 terrorist attacks that were inconsistent with the values of the Champion brand and with which we strongly disagreed. 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. 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.”
Being the outspoken person that I am, I actually respect him for voicing his opinion. Although it may not have been the best career move, he still felt a personal need to address what he and many others viewed as madness and hypocrisy. Although I may not agree completely, he wasn’t being controversial or aggressive, he was simply laying out the facts; which are: We only know what we’ve been told and shown. Being a free spirit obviously comes with its risks.