UPDATED: 5:30 p.m. EDT
According to ESPN, a spokesman for the NFL, Brian McCarthy, said they “found no such evidence” that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur against Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett just prior to last week’s brawl.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett sent shockwaves across the sports world when he hit Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph‘s unprotected head with an NFL helmet. Garrett is now saying his actions were in response to a racial slur.
According to ESPN, Garrett made the accusation at an appeal hearing on Wednesday. He said Rudolph called him a racial slur just prior to last week’s brawl during “Thursday Night Football”. The Steelers quarterback strongly denies this claim, however.
“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten explained in a statement. “He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Rudolph’s attorney Timothy M. Younger echoed the same sentiment, saying, “According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason’s uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.”
“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment.”
Garrett made the accusations at the New York appeal hearing, and it sparked arguments between both sides about whether the allegation was permissible to be used in the appeal at that moment. Appeals officer James Thrash also questioned Garrett about how he might act differently in the future and Garrett explained that he would not let events escalate the way they did in future games.
Reporter Josina Anderson was one of the first to publicly guess that verbal harm was done on Rudolph’s part in order for Garrett to act the way he did. She expressed her thoughts in a tweet that was later deleted: “I would bet Myles Garrett will say he heard Mason Rudolph call him something egregious. Never seen Garrett act like that, ever.”
The NFL announced Garrett’s suspension on Friday and said that he would have to meet with the commissioner’s office before being reinstated. Rudolph hasn’t been punished in regards to the fight, but a source told ESPN that he could be fined.
Sources also said that Garrett had told some in the Browns organization that he was going to express some sensitive information as part of his appeal. During the hearing, Garrett also reportedly used a precedent-based argument, citing the NFL’s punishment of former Houston Texans player Antonio Smith, who was suspended in 2013 for one regular-season game and two preseason games for swinging his helmet at former Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito. Garrett and the NFLPA stated that an indefinite suspension is not permitted under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, according to a source.
Two other athletes were suspended from the brawl. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended for three games for kicking and punching Garrett, and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game for shoving Rudolph.
The NFL ruled on Thursday to uphold Garrett’s indefinite suspension. A decision on Pouncey’s appeal is also expected this week.