PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Pittsburgh Steelers halfback Rashard Mendenhall remained a target of sharp criticism by Twitter users on Tuesday after he posted a message questioning whether news that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed should be cheered.
Hardly “news”, really… the reaction to Mendenhall’s Tweets about bin Laden serves as yet another example of the way Americans, and their corporate media, shoot the messenger rather than address any questions. Notice the Steelers corporation’s immediate response was to “support the troops”, as if asking why they’re fighting in the first place is unfathomable, unpatriotic or objectionable. Actually, Mendenhall addressed this very dilemma succinctly with his reply to some of the Twitter responses: “There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to think.”
Bravo, sir! It’s wonderful to see an athlete serve as a true role model, for a change. Thank you.
As spontaneous celebrations broke out in the hours after the nation learned bin Laden was shot dead by U.S. forces in Pakistan, Mendenhall used the social media site to denounce the response.
“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 wrote in a message posted to the social media site on Monday.
Some Twitter users responded by asking if Mendenhall would have said “the same thing when people celebrated Hitler’s death,” others said it was “ignorant” to give bin Laden the benefit of the doubt.
Mendenhall posted a series of about six Tweets, including one questioning whether the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers was actually the result of al Qaeda hijackers flying planes into the buildings.
“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition-style,” said Mendenhall of the tragedy on September 11, 2001 that claimed 2,752 lives in New York City.
Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a message posted on the team’s website that he had not spoken with Mendenhall, “so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.”
“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,” Rooney said.
Mendenhall did not immediately respond to messages sent to him through Twitter.
(Reporting by Dan Lovering; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)
Here are the other Tweets sent by Mendenhall, as reported in a more thorough AP story, “NFL Star Sparks 9/11 Controversy, May 3 at ESPN (which has since been “updated” and significantly changed at that original link):
PITTSBURGH — Rashard Mendenhall has created a stir with comments made on his official Twitter page regarding Osama bin Laden’s death.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back on Monday tweeted: “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 didn’t hold back, even making a reference to 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.”
The Steelers felt compelled to act. On Tuesday, team president Art Rooney II released a statement.
“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. 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.”
Mendenhall, who profiles himself as a “conversationalist and professional athlete” on his Twitter page, turned some heads in March, as well, when he supported a comment by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson comparing the NFL to “modern-day slavery.”
“Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel eachother,” Mendenhall posted at the time.
Mendenhall is coming off a tremendous season, as he led the AFC champions in carries (324), rushing yards (1,273) and rushing touchdowns (13). He has 2,439 yards in three seasons since being drafted in the 2008 first round out of Illinois.
In the 2010 postseason, Mendenhall ran for 230 yards on 61 carries in three games with four touchdowns, as Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens (31-24) and New York Jets (24-19), before falling to the Green Bay Packers 31-25 in the Super Bowl.
Among his other bin Laden tweets:
“I believe in God. I believe we’re ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge.”
“Those who judge others, will also be judged themselves.”
“For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn . . . I ask how would God feel about your heart?”
“There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to think.”
Mendenhall’s string of tweets ended around 6 p.m. Monday. He has not tweeted since.
Sports radio talk shows in Pittsburgh — and around the nation — were fielding calls on Tuesday about his comments.
Mendenhall has 13,631 followers on Twitter, and he personally follows 66. Included in the group he’s following is the Dalai Lama, comedian Sarah Silverman and the Park Community Church in Chicago.