Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall may think God is the only judge, but that hasn’t stopped him from filing a federal lawsuit against HanesBrands Inc.
He's suing the parent company of Champion athletic apparel for more than $1 million over a Twitter-triggered dispute about why the company cut short an endorsement deal he had with Champion, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
What got Champion's knickers in a twist? The fact that Mendenhall — who calls himself a "conversationalist and professional athlete" (in that order) on his Twitter bio — tweeted some controversial remarks.
According to Mashable and Steelers Depot, his Twitter posts that raised eyebrows included comments about the behavior of some Americans when Osama Bin Laden was killed that gained him national attention: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side ...," Mendenhall tweeted on May 2nd. "I believe in God. I believe we're ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge."
Mendenhall also tweeted (since taken down) this comment about the Sept. 11 attacks: "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."
Champion duly parted ways with Mendenhall on a contract extension signed in 2010 that is worth more than $1 million. Steelers president Art Rooney II stated just after the tweets appeared that it was hard to “even comprehend" what Mendenhall was talking about in his tweets, the Tribune Review reports.
At the time, Champion released a statement that read as follows: "While we respect Mr. Mendenhall's right to express sincere thoughts regarding potentially controversial topics, we no longer belief that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion.”.
No surprise, Mendenhall is suing. While the UK is grappling with celebrities' Twitter comments in light of product placement rules, this case is more about freedom of speech.
"For Rashard, this is not really about the money. This is about his right to express his opinions," said Steven Thompson, a Chicago attorney representing Mendenhall, the newspaper reports. "It was a knee-jerk reaction to his thoughtful comments expressing an opinion that was shared by many Americans."