After Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall wrote on Twitter that no one should celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, and questioned whether the collapse of the World Trade Center towers was really caused by hijacked planes, the athletic apparel company Champion ended its sponsorship relationship with him. Mendenhall responded by filing a lawsuit, and a judge has now decided to let that lawsuit move forward.
Whether Mendenhall’s lawsuit against Hanesbrands, the parent company of Champion, will ultimately be successful is a long way down the road. But the judge has ruled that Mendenhall has a plausible claim that Hanesbrands breached its contract with Mendenhall.
The Hollywood Reporter says Mendenhall’s lawsuit is being watched closely in the entertainment industry, where many celebrities have endorsement deals that contain clauses stipulating that the celebrity can’t do anything that would make the company he endorses look bad. The result of Mendenhall’s lawsuit may make companies and celebrities re-think the wording of those contractual clauses.
And for Mendenhall, the judge’s ruling is a step toward making Champion pay him the rest of the money on his endorsement deal, even though it’s probably safe to say we won’t see him appearing in any Champion ads again.