There had to be one. There was no doubt that some athlete would once again underestimate the power of Twitter and tweet something that could stir up controversy when the news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed. More than ever in recent memory, it seemed an event of which everyone would be in agreement and unity around the country. Still, Rashard Mendenhall, star running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had to be a dissenting voice.
The first tweet about the matter reads as follows: “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…”
There may be a valid point somewhere hidden in the comment-perhaps. And there could be a reasonable debate that ensues from such a starting point—perhaps. However, expressing that sentiment at that time in that medium clearly demonstrates a major dissonance between him and the rest of society. There is no way the tweet would be received positively, and it’s either arrogance or ignorance in thinking that this was an effective way to comment on the situation.
Twitter is not a place for depth or nuance. It is a great medium for both comedy and spreading news and gossip. You can easily trend stories, promote your work, and made fun of Kim Kardashian. One of the most difficult things to do, however, is to engage in a debate. It is simply not the forum for that, it is not the place to go back and forth with someone, or to say something that can and will be rebutted by a majority of followers.
Mendenhall didn’t stop. “@dkeller23 We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style,” continued Mendenhall, in a tweet that can at best be described as him questioning the validity of an Al-Qaeda-led attack on America.
The Steeler went on to say that God will judge us all, and asks of us to think about how HE would about people celebrating the death of another human. “There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to #think,” concludes Mendenhall. There may or may not be an ignorant bone in his body, but he clearly doesn’t think.
Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II released a statement saying he had not spoken yet with Mendenhall, “so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.” He went on to do some damage control by saying, “the entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
One place he will clearly get into trouble is with the Steelers organization and fan base as it is a franchise based on not only being good players on the field, but being good citizens off the field. The team struggled mightily over what to do with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who famously was involved with the police last year and suspended by the league. The team looks for players of strong character and Mendenhall will surely be talked to by the organization and likely forced to clarify his position.
The Pittsburgh fan base is known generally as a devoted group of mostly blue collar workers who are well respected as fan bases go. What’s worse for Mendenhall is that the city is not at all far removed from the attacks on September 11th. That morning, United Airlines flight 93 crashed about 80 miles southeast of the city of Pittsburgh.
The comments are still up on Mendenhall’s Twitter account, @R_Mendenhall.