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Mendenhall, Hanesbrands reach settlement

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review file
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall during practice Dec. 19, 2012, at the team's South Side facility.
By Alan Robinson
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
 

Rashard Mendenhall and clothing retailer Hanesbrands Inc. have reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the Steelers running back after controversial Twitter postings led to Mendenhall's endorsement contract being canceled.

The case was seen in legal circles as one that could set precedent regarding how morals clauses in celebrity endorsement contracts are enforced, but the settlement precludes that.

Mendenhall, a first-round draft pick in 2008, agreed to endorse Hanesbrands' Champion line of athletic gear under a three-year contract signed that year. Soon after, Mendenhall began appearing in ads for Champion, including one on a billboard close to Heinz Field.

Hanesbrands terminated the contract in 2011 after Mendenhall questioned why Americans were celebrating Osama bin Laden's death and whether the World Trade Center buildings were felled by airplanes during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Hanesbrands cited the morals clause in the contract that stated the running back could not become involved in a situation “tending to bring Mendenhall into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule or tending to shock, insult or offend.”

The clothing retailer also issued a statement in which it said it 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.”

Mendenhall was owed about $1 million at the time his contract was canceled.

As part of Mendenhall's First Amendment defense, his lawyers cited Hanesbrands' decision to hire actor Charlie Sheen to endorse Hanes products even after he went public challenging the government's explanation for the Sept. 11 attacks.

In April, U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty refused a motion by Hanesbrands to dismiss Mendenhall's suit.

Terms of the settlement were not known.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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