Mark Madden: Myles Garrett’s unproven racism accusation will follow Steelers QB Mason Rudolph forever |
Mark Madden, Columnist

Mark Madden: Myles Garrett’s unproven racism accusation will follow Steelers QB Mason Rudolph forever

Mark Madden
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) reacts after swinging a helmet at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Cleveland. The Browns won 21-7.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) prepares to pass under pressure by Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Cleveland’s Myles Garrett accused the Steelers’ Mason Rudolph of using a racial slur in the moments preceding Garrett swinging Rudolph’s helmet at Rudolph’s head.

Garrett’s indefinite suspension nonetheless was upheld. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league investigated Garrett’s claim and “found no such evidence” it’s true.

But that doesn’t matter.

No audio reveals Rudolph using offensive terminology.

But that doesn’t matter.

No player on the Browns or Steelers heard Rudolph use offensive terminology.

But that doesn’t matter.

No referee heard it. Garrett’s teammates were blindsided by the accusation when they learned about it Thursday. According to ESPN, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the players, “We know Mason didn’t say that.”

But that doesn’t matter.

There is no proof. There isn’t one single witness.

But that doesn’t matter.

Garrett’s accusation is gospel truth to too many, specifically those who want it to be true by way of serving an agenda.

Lots of ex-players in sports media unreservedly believe Garrett. Jamil Smith, a senior writer for Rolling Stone, said on Twitter, “I recognized the anger as soon as I saw it. Myles Garrett got ‘You just called me (an N-word)’ mad. He’ll be accused of crying wolf. Rudolph’s denial will be enough for many.”

Just like Garrett’s unprovable accusation seems to be enough for Smith. Just like hypothetical “what-ifs?” quickly morph into “he did.”

When enough people want something to be true, it’s true — even when it’s a lie.

This gets worse before it gets better, and it never truly goes away.

Rudolph is marked for life. This will follow him forever. He could be MVP, first-team All-Pro and a Super Bowl winner. (That’s extremely hypothetical.) But when Rudolph’s name is mentioned, talk of this allegation quickly will follow.

Despite support shown by Tomlin and Cameron Heyward, African-Americans in Rudolph’s locker room always will wonder. African-Americans in other NFL locker rooms will believe the worst.

Traditional and social media will pick at this scab constantly. It will be bloody and raw in perpetuity. That’s where it started: ESPN’s Josina Anderson made the accusation before Garrett did. (Perhaps Anderson was Garrett’s inspiration.)

I’ll call Garrett’s accusation what it is: a cheap and desperate (and unsuccessful) attempt to shorten his indefinite suspension by playing the race card. Garrett put his finger in the air, accurately divining which way America’s ill wind is blowing.

The burden of proof should be on Garrett. He lodged the complaint. But that’s not how it is in today’s sociopolitical climate.

This situation is he-said, he-said. So we pick sides.

Garrett’s allegations are worse than swinging that helmet. They certainly did more damage to Rudolph.

Rudolph doesn’t seem the kind to carry this burden with steely resolve. He’s easily rattled. He looks like a victim. That doesn’t bode well for Sunday at Cincinnati, nor for Rudolph’s career moving forward.

The story isn’t done metastasizing.

Rudolph seems to lean right based on tweets he liked criticizing Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling stance and sports journalist/social justice warrior Jemele Hill (ex-ESPN). Rudolph also is said to be a fan of conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren. How long before Rudolph gets connected to President Trump?

There won’t be any proof.

But that doesn’t matter.

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