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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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Since: Jul 19, 2011
Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:18 pm

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

The founding fathers were "non-conformists" 
critical thinking..
Give it a whirl...the rabbit hole dont bite.

Since: Dec 15, 2010
Posted on: July 19, 2011 12:58 pm

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

What a bunch of dumbasses, never seen/heard of another Superbowl loser act this way during a off-season before.
Oh well, it was Harrison last week, Mendenhall this week, probably Big Ben next week, wonder who the week after?

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: July 19, 2011 12:45 pm

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

If he were playing for the Bears he would no doubt spend a lot more time whining and voting for crooked politicians.

If he were playing for the Bears, he would be Cedric Benson - soon to be departing in arrests and shame. Matt Forte gets it done on the field and is a class act off the field. He's a tough dude to contain.

Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:55 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

"Stupid" is a relative term. One you think is stupid, may not be stupid to me, or to someone else. Perhaps "surprising", "unorthodox", or "out-of-the-norm" would be a better choice of words. 

You then went and used the word "unintelligent" which falls prey to the same fallacy as "stupid". You are merely inflecting personal bias into your argument that isn't exactly necessary to your point.

Just because a player may say something that is "out-of-the-norm" and may shock people doesn't mean it is stupid, unfounded, or ridiculous. Dismissing, someone's opinion merely because it doesn't agree with yours is not healthy discourse. Comparably, Galileo was likely considered "stupid" in his day. Now, I'm not going to compare Mendenhall to Galileo, but rather, the situation and the outrage in reaction to simple things someone may say during a period in time in which they live. In Galileo's defense, he did propose evidence and such, however even that wasn't enough for him not to be declared a heretic. 

Back to this situation...
Yes, a sponsor has every right to fire a celebrity if celebrity is no longer marketable for their brand. However, if there is contractual obligations to uphold that are overlooked or ignored upon termination, then that celebrity has every right to pursue a wrongful termination suit. Which is sort of the case here. Obviously both sides will have difficulty proving each side of this argument:
"...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.”

I'd imagine Mendenhall only wants what was agreed upon in his contract, in terms of money that is. But, for some reason he also feels it's necessary to bring to light the issue of free speech, the relationship between endorser and brang, and the idea that perhaps we don't know everything about 9/11. Who is to say that we actually do?

Since: Dec 20, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:33 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Rashard Mendenhall is becoming an embarrassment.  This is disappointing.

I don't think Mendenhall is unintelligent at all.  But I think he lives in a shell where people are feeding him lots of bad information, and he seems to have an anti-establishment chip on his shoulders. 

My problems with this suit, at least from the minimal information provided, include A) This is not a matter of protected speech.  The first amendment right to free speech protects citizens from government repercussions or censorship.  This right does not prohibit other citizens nor businesses from applying repercussions within the law.  B) He signed this contract which included standard language designed to protect the company from harmful conduct by the spokesperson.  Mendenhall's attorney could argue that there was no tangible harm to Champion, but the terms are defined so loosely that the perception of harm is generally sufficient to invoke the clause, i.e., if Champion perceives harm then there is harm.  C) If he were making this suit to protect athlete spokespersons, he should have filed this as a class action suit-- but he didn't.  The reason?  There is no constitutional right to be a celebrity spokesperson.  Being fired as a paid celebrity spokesperson is not a violation of his rights as an American citizen.  Nor is his livelihood in jeopardy because of this.  Mendenhall remains a top 10 (and if you consider his all-around skills as blocker and receiver, plus his ability to run both inside and outside, perhaps a top-5) running back in the NFL.  He will have opportunities for motivational speaking, for writing books, for sportscasting, coaching, etc.  And if he had just kept his mouth shut and been a good citizen for another season, someone else would have signed him as spokesman.  Now, he has pretty much sunk his own ship as celebrity spokesperson, except perhaps for paranoid conspiracy groups.
He's a good runner, but at this point I wouldn't feel hurt if the Steelers were able to get some quality trade for him.

Since: Sep 7, 2009
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:33 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

I have to agree with part of his original tweet: “What kind of person celebrates death?” It's something that's gotten so out of control these days. People are constantly celebrating death or harm done to others, or wishing death or harm on others. And then trying to justify it with their own brand of self-righteous BS. It's not just about bin Laden, Casey Anthony, or OJ Simpson. It's about Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, LeBron James, President Bush, President Obama, abortion clinics, or even Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black. WTF's wrong with people these days?

For 99.9999999% of the haters out there, his opening question is absolutely fair. They don't even bother READING news articles, weighing the evidence, trying to understand someone's thinking, etc., before they start spewing hate. They don't change their beliefs even when evidence proves them wrong. They just spew their hate.

It's a lot like all the racial slurs, anti-gay slurs, or sexist slurs that somehow "accidentally" slip out of people's mouths in "the heat of the moment". These are peeks at the hater's deep-seated beliefs, not just slips of the tongue. No, they're not racist, sexist or anti-gay, and some of their best friends are black, female or gay. Yeah, right. If that were true, the thought would not have even been there "accidentally" to "slip out" in "the heat of the moment." It's time to face the guy in the mirror and see yourself as what you really are.

No, I'm not defending Mendenhall's subsequent tweets about 9/11. And, no, I'm not condoning 9/11 or terrorism in general. But I understand the reasons behind both. And I understand the reasons behind the hate.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:25 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Perhaps Rashard Mendenhall needs to open his eyes and see that sometimes there is recourse for your action.  If I said something stupid it most certainly could jeopardize my job let alone a SPONSOR.  These companies are paying a good dime to use him as a selling point and if they believe his actions have hurt his "marketability" of the product, then by all means they have every right to justifiably can his unintelligent self.  These guys in the NFL need to start learning that sometimes there are consequences for your actions....and stay outta freaking jail!

Since: Jun 15, 2011
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:21 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

You can clearly see that his eyes are too far apart.  That being said, (compiled with the blank look on his face) his comments should not be taken seriously.

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:18 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Come on, guys, if you got a Big Ben liquoring up and raping underage girls, and a james Harrison insisting that he is too stupid to follow the rules and whines about the commish and his own teammates, it's hard to keep up.  I am sure Rashad is really a quiet, thoughtful, well-educated man, but is merely trying to fit in with his team and its fans.

If he were playing for the Bears he would no doubt spend a lot more time whining and voting for crooked politicians.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:10 am

Rashard Mendenhall sues Champion over 9/11 tweets

Welcome to the TWO MINUTES HATE section..........Rashard Mendenhall as "Goldstein"....

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