Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment in the US Constitution and allows for an individual to voice, through various mediums, their thoughts on a wide range of issues from public policy to judging a famed actress’ dress.
One of those mediums is Twitter, the social networking and micro blogging service.
With the recent news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter to tell us how he really feels. Late Monday evening, Mendenhall tweeted: "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..." In addition, he added, "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."
I’m not necessarily agreeing with his comments but I also don’t think it requires the Pittsburgh Steelers organization to release a statement as a response. This shouldn’t be a story at all but here I am writing about it. There are thousands of people out in Twitter world who had similar feelings.
Mendenhall is a star running back in the NFL and what he does is publicized more than the average person. So because of this he has to be more careful when he tweets than me? At the risk of misrepresenting his sport, employer and coworkers, he has to limit what he says?
The 1st Amendment gives him the right to say pretty much what he wants to. Granted not everything that can be said is always safe to say but Mendenhall gave his opinion on a recent news story. His views are shared by a minority but still expressed by others in a public forum such as CNN, FOX News and other TV networks as well as printed media. They voice similar opinions without the ridicule because it’s part of their job.
As a society do we expect Mendenhall’s comments not to have any value or depth because he is just a football player? Mendenhall is a person with a unique perspective on the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Of all organizations, the first class Steelers, owned by Dan Rooney (US Ambassador to Ireland and the driving force behind the “Rooney Rule”) should understand the diversity within its team. Those players share the same ideas when on the gridiron but outside the stadium they are individuals.
Let’s be real about this, Mendenhall is in the minority but his thoughts cause a healthy debate. I follow a few athletes on Twitter and I’ve read much worse. If people were really offended by Mendenhall’s comments they should look at other athletes who would have various race, political and gay rights groups calling the league.