PITTSBURGH — Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall wrote a “clarification” of his comments made Monday on Twitter regarding the death of Osama bin Laden.
In a tweet posted around 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, he linked to an in-depth blog post. In that entry, he wrote that he does not support bin Laden, and that he aimed clear things up, for not only himself, but also the Steelers.
On Monday, Pittsburgh’s leading rusher caused enough of a stir with his tweets, that the Steelers felt compelled to release a statement.
Among Mendenhall’s posts, the day after the bin Laden news broke, was: “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…” He also tweeted on 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.”
Wednesday’s offering, though, was a different story.
“I appreciate those of you who have decided to read this letter and attain a greater understanding of my recent Twitter posts. I see how they have gotten misconstrued, and wanted to use this outlet as a way to clear up all things that do not truthfully represent myself, what I stand for personally, and any organization that I am a part of.
“First, 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. Not just in the U.S., but families all over the world who had relatives in the World Trade Centers. My heart goes out to the troops who fight for our freedoms everyday, not being certain if they will have the opportunity to return home, and the families who watch their loved ones bravely go off to war. Last year, I was grateful enough to have the opportunity to travel overseas and participate in a football camp put on for the children of U.S. troops stationed in Germany. It was a special experience. These events have had a significant impact in my life.”
Mendenhall also specifically pointed out the “celebrates death” tweet.
“This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics.”
He also tried to bring closure to the situation.
“Nothing I said was meant to stir up controversy. It was my way to generate conversation. In looking at my timeline in its entirety, everything that I’ve said is with the intent of expressing a wide array of ideas and generating open and honest discussions, something I believe we as American citizens should be able to do. Most opinions will not be fully agreed upon and are not meant to be. However, I believe every opinion should be respected or at least given some thought. I apologize for the timing as such a sensitive matter, but it was not meant to do harm. I apologize to anyone I unintentionally harmed with anything that I said, or any hurtful interpretation that was made and put in my name.”
On Tuesday, as Mendenhall’s offerings became a national story, team president Art Rooney II made sure the Steelers were heard from.
“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments,” he wrote in a statement. “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.
As a result of the controversy, Mendenhall saw a spike in his followers on Twitter. On Tuesday afternoon, he had 13,631. On Wednesday afternoon, he had 36,914.
He personally follows 67 on Twitter. Included in the group he’s following is the Dalai Lama, comedian Sarah Silverman and the Park Community Church in Chicago.