Rashard Mendenhall Remarks On Bin Laden’s Death Were Right On, But Then Again . . .
Rashard Mendenhall has demonstrated throughout his career as an NFL running back that he’s a pretty elusive guy. Boy, has he had to use those skills in recent days to dodge all the criticism that’s come his way in response remarks he made on Twitter in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
The 23-year-old, coming off a season in which he was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ leading rusher, got in hot water with this tweet, written in response to all the “USA! USA!” celebrations that popped up after the Bin Laden news broke:
“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 . . .”
Now, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable perspective. Yeah, I might quibble about the “we’ve only heard one side” part, since Bin Laden never was shy about expressing his reasoning behind the terrorist attacks he masterminded. But Mendenhall’s larger point – calling into question the joyful celebration of a man’s death – seems utterly rational to me. Unfortunately, “reasonable” and “rational” just don’t fly during these jingoistic times.
Naturally, the Internet was quickly abuzz with loony accusations that Mendenhall was taking Bin Laden’s side. Much of this was spewn by the angry souls who post anonymously on bottom-feeding message boards, although some members of the media took the opportunity to misinterpret the running back as well. The Steelers issued a statement that basically stuck a five-foot pole between them and Mendenhall.
To his credit, Mendenhall did not cower and apologize. Instead, he wrote a blog item in which he attempted to clarify. After framing the whole matter as not “an issue of politics or American pride, but one of religion, morality, and human ethics,” he quoted the Bible and then wrote, “I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.”
It would be nice if the story ended there. I could just praise Mendenhall for having the courage to speak up, and that would be that. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Shortly after he’d posted the Bin Laden tweet, Mendenhall went on to say this about 9/11:
“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
Yikes. I’m having one of those Jon Stewart moments, where the point you just made seems to be unraveling as you speak. I’ll leave it at this: Rashard Mendenhall has the right to believe what he believes, and to freely express what he believes. He’s taken the moral high ground in questioning the joyful celebrations of Bin Laden’s death, but as for challenging the story of the 9/11 attacks, well, now you are speaking nonsense, Rashard.
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