Blog Entry

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Posted on: July 18, 2011 3:57 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 4:05 pm
 
Posted by Will Brinson

Rashard Mendenhall created one of the offseason's biggest controversies when he tweeted some stuff about 9/11 following Osama Bin Laden's death. The tweets got fans all stirred up, drew some remarks from teammates and got him fired as an endorser of Champion.

In response, Mendenhall is -- per CNBC's Darren Rovell -- suing Hanesbrand, the parent company of Champion in North Carolina District Court.

“This case involves the core question of whether an athlete employed as a celebrity endorser loses the right to express opinions simply because the company whose products he endorses might disagree with some (but not all) of those opinions,” the suit reads.

In all likelihood, this won't work like a normal "wrongful termination" case -- Mendenhall had a clause in his Champion contract that, per Rovell, allows them to fire him if Mendenhall "commits or is arrested for any crime or becomes involved in any situation or occurrence tending to bring Mendenhall into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult or offend the majority of the consuming public.”  

The problem here for Mendenhall is that because he's dealing with an issue like 9/11, he'll have an uphill battle to prove that the majority of the consuming public wasn't offended by his comments, particularly given the storm of media coverage it generated.

Additionally, he's seeking monetary damages for his termination, which probably won't play well in the media, despite what his attorneys claim.

"Although the lawsuit seeks damages, this case is truly not about the money," Mendenhall's lawyer Stephen Thompson told Rovell. "In this age of widespread social media, Rashard believes (whether an athlete can be fired for his or her opinions) is an important question for all athletes who serve as celebrity spokespersons, and he intends to pursue this lawsuit to vindicate his rights and those of other athletes caught in this situation."

Perhaps the biggest problem is the resulting image hit that Mendenhall could suffer. Even though he's defending a basic American tenant -- free speech -- he's going to remind everyone in the country exactly why he got fired in the first place; it's unlikely that the general public's stance has changed on his statements since then.

And, of course, he's suing an ex-employer and someone who signed him to an endorsement contract. That's never good for business, particularly if you're trying to find future endorsers.

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Comments

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:15 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

 Mendenhall has the right to say whatever he wants, but not be employed as a celebrity endorser while doing so.

Completely true. Just as an elementary school teacher has a right to publicly support legalizing marijuana - just don't expect the school board to take kindly to that position. Whatever you say can be used against you. That's a right, too.



Since: Jul 27, 2010
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:56 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

wow....so now, after seeing the backlash he received first hand, he thinks he can defend his words to the point that he can prove his words weren't detrimental to the company's image? He really has no clue what kind of can he opened with what he said.



Since: Jul 19, 2011
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:43 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

" but the the contract that mentions the point about rejection is vague enough for him to fight it." I think not. It is stated so broadly that Champion could use any situation or comment he makes that is deeemed in the slightest bit to be offense as grounds for termination. This is not a free speech issue. This is an issue of someone who took a companies money in good faith to respresent their products and uphold the integrity of the company while doing so. Clearly he took the money & never bothered once to care about how he would affect the company by being their representive & making provocative comments.



Since: Oct 30, 2007
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Was there a clause in his contract that binds them to keep idiots as spokesmen? Because this case will get thrown out quickly.



Since: Apr 25, 2011
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

I will voice my freedom of speech that Rashard is fighting so hard to protect:
- I love the USA and our military
- I celebrated Bin Laden's death and just might make it an annual celebration
- I hope that Pat Tillman did not die in vain and consider him a national hero regardless of the friendly fire coverup
- I do not think that our government conspired against us on 9/11
- I think that the majority of people do and say some pretty questionable things and if given 24/7 media attention would make Ryan Leaf look like George Stephanopoulos
- I agree that Rashard is free to say what he feels, but a sponsor is also free to terminate their relationship if contractually allowable
- I just want this lockout over so I can watch some football with my son



Since: Mar 4, 2008
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:19 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

"Stupid" is not a relative term it means: 1. Slow to learn or understand. 2. Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes. 3. Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless.  I think definition #2 is a clear and accurate example of Rashard Mendenhall's behavior.  Try using words you know how to use rather than "big" words to sound more educated or intelligent that you really are.  You go on to critique the word "unintelligent" and comment on "inflecting personal bias" in an inane manner, totally absurd. 

The bottom line is that the firing is completely in line with the contract.  As soon as someone who represents my company as an endorser does anyhting to bring discredit to himself, he lessens his value to me as an endorser and can be found in breach and I can dismiss him.



Since: Sep 28, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Rashard Mendenhall is a complete moron.  If he did not learn to keep is mouth shut with the media then he is dumb. He can have his beliefs and opinions but letting them get out to the public and media is going to cause mass criticism.

The solid team with character that Bill Cowher built is coming unglued under Mike Tomlin.




Since: Jun 22, 2009
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

If Rashard doesn't win his suit, he could always threaten to rain a jihad down on Champion, so he's got that going for him. 



Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

He embarrassed a lot of people when he made his ridiculous statements, and his employer has a right to reject that speech.
Fair enough they do, but the contract that mentions the point about rejection is vague enough for him to fight it. Also, his statements aren't anymore ridiculous than your statement. It is merely your opinion that it is ridiculous yet offer no evidence of it being ridiculous or why it is. 

 
If he was smart, and he clearly is not, he would have learned from this situation and just wanted it to go away so he could put it behind him.
If he feels strongly about something, why should he be bullied into suppressing it? If you said something that your coworkers didn't agree with, but felt strongly about, would you decide to never say again? Just because some people don't agree with you, doesn't mean you need to put it behind you. You may think he's being an idiot, but what you propose can be labeled as cowardly behavior.

There is no right or wrong in this situation. There is no smart or dumb. 



Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

When you take on the role of celebrity endorser, you take on added responsibility.  Mendenhall has the right to say whatever he wants, but not be employed as a celebrity endorser while doing so.  He embarrassed a lot of people when he made his ridiculous statements, and his employer has a right to reject that speech.  The contract was written so that it will be easy to fire him.  This is just another proof statement that Mendenhall is an idiot.  If he was smart, and he clearly is not, he would have learned from this situation and just wanted it to go away so he could put it behind him.  Instead, he puts in right back on the front burner.  He is an idiot, and he is determined to prove it.



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