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Litter campaign cans Steelers star Sanders

Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders -- shown here with 'Litterbug' -- and teammate Antonio Brown were fined $300 plus court costs for leaving boxes by a private trash container in 2010. Photo courtesy

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 12:04 a.m.

An environmental group on Monday benched Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders from its anti-littering campaign upon finding out that he admitted in court to littering.

"We would certainly not have used him as a spokesman for the campaign had we known," said David Mazza, regional director for the Pennsylvania Resources Council, which has teamed with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to fight litter.

Sanders was given a littering citation in November 2010 before filming an ad for the campaign. It's unclear how often the ad has aired. The council suspended the ad until it talks with Sanders.

Sanders could not be reached for comment. Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten referred requests for comment to attorney Robert Del Greco, who represented Sanders, 25, and receiver Antonio Brown, 23, on charges they dumped empty boxes near a trash container in Beltzhoover.

"We certainly want to hear his side of the story," Mazza said.

Mazza said Sanders impressed him during the taping as someone strongly opposed to littering.

Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said the ad was ready to air when the environmental outfit asked for the administration's support. She said Ravenstahl, an avid Steelers fan, did not know about the littering citation.

"It's certainly unfortunate," she said. "We still believe that this anti-litter campaign is a good campaign."

Doven said a key message is that litterbugs will be fined.

According to the citation from Pittsburgh police, the owner of a trash container on West Warrington Avenue found empty boxes belonging to Sanders and Brown on Nov. 13, 2010. Del Greco appeared before Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo to plead guilty on the players' behalf.

The judge fined each $300 plus court costs, Del Greco said.

Mazza said the Steelers offered Sanders as a spokesman for the campaign. Because statistics show that people between 18 and 24 years old are the most likely to throw trash on the ground, the council wanted someone who could relate to that age group, he said.

Mazza said he doesn't condone the unauthorized use of private trash containers, but "that's not the 'littering' that is the target of the campaign."

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