Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall created a storm of controversy with a string of Twitter messages posted Monday. His first teammate to publicly address the situation was safety Ryan Clark.
Clark joined Jason Horowitz and Steve Phillips of SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio on Wednesday to discuss the controversy.
Clark’s message? “My first reaction to it really is that social media is ruining the world.”
He felt strongly enough about that statement to repeat it a while later. “Social media is ruining the world,” Clark said. “Facebook and Twitter are probably going to be responsible for more divorces than infidelity coming up here soon.”
At the risk of breaking out the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” bumper sticker, the reality is that social media is merely the conduit through which folks can say things that will get them in trouble. As I stress to my son at least once a week, anything he says on Twitter or Facebook can come back to haunt him. Though, in the grand scheme of things, Mendenhall isn’t much older than my son, Mendenhall is an adult — and adults should be expected to realize the practical consequences of making statements in places where they can be read by anyone and everyone.
That said, Clark stopped short of criticizing Mendenhall for his views. “I guess he’s entitled to his opinion,” Clark said. “He didn’t claim that those opinions were shared by anyone else but himself. That was what he chose to put out there. I knew he was going to catch a lot of flak for it, I knew there was going to be a lot of backlash toward those comments, but he’s entitled to put whatever he wants to put on his Twitter page. The thing you have to know these days, though, if you do put those type of things out there, people are going to comment on them. It’s going to make news. It’s going to be a big deal when you do something that controversial. A long as he can stand by his statements then he’s free to do whatever he wants.”
Clark also seems resigned to the possibility that Mendenhall’s career with the Steelers could be impacted in a negative way by his comments.
“We play a game where contracts really only have to be honored by the players signing them,” Clark said. “The teams that you play for do not have to honor those contracts. So it would be nothing that we could do. We’d have to accept and respect the Rooneys’ thought process in that and their decision. I would be extremely disappointed if that is the case. I don’t see this as a legal issue. Rashard Mendenhall wasn’t the guy on those planes. Rashard Mendenhall was not wreaking havoc and terrorizing our American people. Rashard Mendenhall made an unpopular comment. Rashard Mendenhall had an opportunity to tweet something because of the way social media works that maybe wasn’t in the best interests of him or our organization.”
No matter how it all turns out, we hope other athletes learn from Mendenhall’s misadventures.
Then again, in light of the content that the controversy has provided during what otherwise would have been a very slow week, maybe we don’t.