Mendenhall backtracks on bin Laden tweets
In an attempt to soften criticism following controversial comments he made about Osama bin Laden, Rashard Mendenhall offered a sweeping explanation Wednesday and said his comments were "misconstrued."
The Steelers running back closed with an apology to anyone he offended with remarks that mushroomed into a national story. He said he was encouraging freedom of opinion on his Twitter account â€' not stir anti-American sentiment â€' when he questioned the widespread celebrations that took place following the killing of bin Laden during a U.S. military operation.
"I apologize for the timing as such a sensitive matter, but it was not meant to do harm," Mendenhall wrote in a blog post that exceeded 500 words. "I apologize to anyone I unintentionally harmed with anything that I said, or any hurtful interpretation that was made and put in my name. I want people to understand that I am not in support of bin Laden or against the USA.
"I understand how devastating 9/11 was to this country and to the people whose families were affected. My heart goes out to the troops who fight for our freedoms everyday, not certain if they will have the opportunity to return home, and the families who watch their loved ones bravely go off to war."
Mendenhall sounded a different tone Monday, at least to those whose ire he raised, when he took issue with the unbridled joy shown by many following the announcement of bin Laden's death. He had written that there is more than one side to the story in regard to bin Laden, the face of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks killed thousands of people.
"I wasn't questioning Bin Laden's evil acts," Mendenhall wrote. "I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man's death."
Mendenhall, who has posted consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, also questioned how the planes flown into the World Trade Center could have brought down the Twin Towers "demolition style."
He removed remarks about the Twin Towers from his Twitter account Tuesday and did not address them in his blog entry.
The Steelers were quick to distance themselves from Mendenhall's earlier posts, as team president Art Rooney II said Tuesday that "it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments."
Steelers safety Ryan Clark told Sirius XM radio that Mendenhall is entitled to his opinion.
"He didn't claim that those opinions were shared by anyone else but himself," Clark said, according to ProFootballTalk.com . "I knew he was going to catch a lot of flak for it. ... But he's entitled to put whatever he wants to put on his Twitter page."
Champion, which hired Mendenhall to endorse its products, released a statement against Mendenhall's comments.
"Rashard Mendenhall does not speak for Champion when he expresses his opinions and viewpoints on his personal Twitter account. In fact, we strongly disagree with Mr. Mendenhall's views on the war on terror. Champion supports the U.S. government's efforts to eradicate terrorism and is sincerely grateful for the security provided by our Armed Forces and the sacrifices made by members of the military. We are also proud to support our own employees who are members of the National Guard and Armed Forces reserves. As a company with offices in New York City, we remember all too vividly the horror of September 11, and we continue to sympathize with the victims of September 11 and their families and friends. It is clear that many people strongly disagree with Mr. Mendenhall's personal views on this highly sensitive and divisive subject. We respectfully count ourselves among them."
This isn't the first time Mendenhall has created a flap with his Twitter posts. In March, he supported Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's comparison that the NFL's treatment of players was akin to modern-day slavery.
When asked about those posts at the NFL owners meetings later that month, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said they had not surprised him.
"Rashard is a sharp guy, a deep philosophical guy," Tomlin said March 22. "That's opinion-oriented, and I don't care about those things."
Neither Art Rooney II not Tomlin have been allowed to talk to Mendenhall because of the NFL lockout that is in place.
Mendenhall said he visited Germany last year and helped with a football camp staged for the children of troops stationed there.
"It was a special experience," Mendenhall wrote. "These events have had a significant impact in my life."Additional Information:
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall attempted to clarify comments he made earlier this week about Osama bin Laden and 9/11 on his blog. To read the blog in its entirety, go to twitter.com/#!/R_Mendenhall .