Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has stepped in to support his quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was accused of using racial slur against Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, resulting in a brawl that led to Garrett’s suspension and a loss of millions. Tomlin, who is one of three Black coaches in the NFL, said that he supports Rudolph and doesn’t believe the N-word was used, as Garrett has said on more than one occasion.
“I support Mason Rudolph not only because I know him, but also because I was on the field immediately following the altercation with Myles Garrett, and subsequently after the game,” Tomlin said.
He continued, “I interacted with a lot of people in the Cleveland Browns organization – players and coaches. If Mason said what Myles claimed, it would have come out during the many interactions I had with those in the Browns organization. In my conversations I had a lot of expressions of sorrow for what transpired. I received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions.”
Tomlin’s statement is in response to an interview Garrett did with ESPN following his reinstatement after a six-game suspension.
Garrett initially made the accusations at a New York appeal hearing in November, 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.
SportsCenter shared a snippet of Garrett’s interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes where the defensive end said he was called “the N-word,” adding that Rudolph called him a “stupid N-word.”
Rudolph has denied the allegations, calling them 1000% false. “Bold-Faced Lie. I did not, have not, and would not utter a racial-slur. This is a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character,” he said in a tweet.
Folks on social media appear to be torn as to which side is telling the truth.
ESPN NFL Nation reporter, Brooke Pryor, who covers the Steelers noted that Tomlin released a statement when he typically doesn’t engage with the media during the off season. “Not only was the statement from Mike Tomlin incredibly strong, it also is important to note that Tomlin doesn’t talk in the offseason. For him to come out with the statement of support for his quarterback right now says everything,” she said.
Timothy M. Younger, Rudolph’s agent, released a statement regarding the incident as well, which has been receiving criticism. “…His claim is ludicrous,” said Younger. “This obviously was not the first time Mr. Rudolph had been sacked by an African American player. Mr. Garrett maliciously uses this false allegation to coax sympathy, hoping to be excused for what is clearly inexcusable behavior.”
Garrett said in the interview that the NFL is allegedly hiding information that could prove him to be right, according to Bleacher Report. “Most quarterbacks wear mics in their helmets. He somehow lost his helmet and had to get another one without a mic,” he said in the interview. There were guys who were mic’d up near me—near us—during that time who didn’t hear anything, and from what I’ve heard, there [may] have been audio during that game that could’ve heard something or could not have heard something, but they don’t want to say.”
Garrett, however, just wants to move forward and get back to playing football. He explained, “But it is what it is. I think I’ve moved on. I know what happened, I know what I heard.”
“I don’t want to make it a racial thing, honestly,” he added. “It’s over with for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s over with for Mason, so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football.”
*This story was updated to include a quote from Bleacher Report.*