Cut Steeler Rashard Mendenhall, An Athlete Thinking Aloud, Some Slack

Hat tip to Jack and Jill Politics regarding this issue.

Yes, the young brother is a thinking athlete, rather than someone who basically takes the bucks and does the job and doesn’t have a opinion that differs from the mainstream or those of his employers. It’s not only a case of free speech, even on Twitter. It’s a case of a young black man who was thinking aloud about what he thinks was really going on with the killing of Osama bin Laden and with the Twin Towers. No doubt, this young man needs to read more, and I think that in the light of further information, especially about how the World Trade Center came down, he would change his mind.

However, as Twitter is becoming more and more black, thinking out loud may become even more weighted with consequences than Charlie Sheen‘s diatribes, as Mendenhall gets hate mail, hate calls, calls for his firing, static from his employers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, stentorian editorials and blog articles about his lack of whatever, and loses more endorsements other than Champion. And it’s not really called for.

I believe the brother when he made a clarification on May 4:

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 US, 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 over seas and participate in a football camp put on for the children of US troops stationed in Germany. It was a special experience. These events have had a significant impact in my life.

“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…”

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. In the bible, Ezekiel 33:11 states, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!…”. 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.

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.

It was only meant to encourage anyone reading it to think.

Nothing wrong with thinking. Nothing wrong with saying what you think and hoping for a measured response from other people who think. But those who make decisions strictly on emotions, or what we SGI Buddhists call the lower four worlds, or the four evil paths (hell, hunger, animality, anger), one gets nothing but negativity, not understanding. Perhaps in retrospect, Mendenhall should not have said anything, or better, tempered his words. It’s not that the young man doesn’t possess any common sense. I don’t think that he’s a 9-11 truther or a supporter of bin Laden. If anything, it seems that in tweeting, he was looking for a mannered discussion.  But I also think that some of the negativity he is experiencing is also based on his earlier support of a Minnesota Viking who compared football players to slaves. It’s a point of view that has been shared by many blacks in the NFL, but for a black man to publicly say or support such a statement (in this year when the players may strike) is particularly galling. It’s no different, say, than what the late Curt Flood said decades ago about the baseball reserve clause (which was later struck down because of his famous lawsuit against Major League Baseball) being akin to slavery.

So the invective against Rashard Mendenhall is very much about shutting him up or shutting him down for his perceived effrontery. Some are even suggesting that pro athletes’ tweets be monitored by their respective employers, which would be a bizarre as well as illegal move.  It’s no accident that both sports and national news media along with outraged pundits are ganging up on the young man.

Once more, though, a public figure and specifically, a sports celebrity, using the strategy of social networking to present himself, is being attacked. Twitter, Facebook, or what have you–the intimacy of using social networking  cannot be denied: you tweet to a certain percentage of people who supposedly like you or your exploits or what you have to say. Yet unburdening yourself could be devastating and career ending as well, especially if the same audience becomes offended by your performance on the field or what you have to say.

Mannered discussions on Twitter? It’s not a venue for that kind of thing. The best kinds of discussions are when you’re dealing face-to-face with others, something Twitter cannot deliver despite its intimacy. Face-to-face discussions show the play of someone’s face; you can hear how an individual is speaking, and what they are trying to say. Tweets provide no context for how someone is trying to communicate, especially someone who is not a writer. All you can see are the words. There are times when some have commented how angry I must be; hell, I’m not angry when I write. I’m choosing strong words that convey my feelings about certain issues. I’m essentially quiet, calm and solitary when I am writing. Sometimes I even laugh at what I’ve written. If I were that angry or raving, I couldn’t write this blog or any other creative work. I think Mendenhall was just that way–rational and calm– when he tweeted his thoughts.

Mendenhall had a point, though, regarding the relentless jingoism and nationalism that has enveloped certain Americans since the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. That’s right, I said nationalism. Being a patriot is one thing, but being a nationalist, in which you staunchly believe that your group or country can do no wrong, is a step towards madness. It’s the kind of madness that sparked World War I. I felt this discomfort when I saw the youthful throng at the White House gates screaming, “USA!” over and over when the President announced bin Laden’s death. Hate. Revenge. Gitmo.  Killing.  Lying. Torture.  Manufactured consent.  The list is endless about what this so-called War on Terror has done to our country.   Bin Laden may be gone at last, but he has had his revenge on us through our own deeds.  The essential question as to why people find it necessary to pick up the gun or bomb and attack us has not been addressed yet, nor how to prevent such a thing from occurring once more.  It certainly is easier to blame others for supposedly harshing a moment of national jubilation and unity, especially when we refuse to acknowledge our own responsibility for making deals with people who will turn on us and murder our people, and that this moment stands on shakier ground than we think.

And all this, I believe, is what Mendenhall, in his stumbling and questing way, was trying to say.  He saw no introspection, no self-examination among his countrymen, and this dismayed him, a young man who also appears to be a devout Christian.  He thought that we were above all that, and he’s found out, unhappily, that many of us aren’t.  And in more ways than one.  I applaud him for even attempting to spark a discussion, but young brother, this was not the right place.  Don’t let this episode stop you, though.  I hope that he continues to talk and to reach people, and put his few dollars where his mind is. I wish him the best in his career, on and off the gridiron.

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~ by blksista on May 11, 2011.

 
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