Will Mason Rudolph actually sue Myles Garrett?

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In a possible effort to avoid being regarded as a reckless, Vontaze Burfict-type NFL villain, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has accused Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph of provoking a helmet-to-unhelmeted-head attack by uttering a racial slur. Rudolph’s agent/lawyer has suggested that Garrett may now be sued for defamation of character.

So here’s the question: Will Rudolph do it?

“I would expect him to do what was appropriate in terms of protecting his name and reputation,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said during his Monday appearance on ESPN, via Ed Bouchette of TheAthletic.com. “And I would do so aggressively, and I don’t blame him.”

The biggest challenge for Rudolph, if suit is filed, continues to be the higher standard that applies to defamation cases brought by public figures. He’ll need to prove that Garrett acted with “actual malice,” which means that Garrett said what he said knowing it was false or with reckless disregard as to whether it was true or false. And if Rudolph rolls the dice but fails to meet the enhanced standard, a jury verdict entered in Garrett’s favor under the “actual malice” test easily (but incorrectly) could be regarded by the public as a finding that Rudolph used a racial slur.

Thus, no matter how compelling the discovery process and the trial would be, it makes sense for Rudolph to let it go — especially since Garrett’s defense lawyers would undoubtedly delve into every nook and cranny of Rudolph’s life in an effort to develop any evidence that could be used to show that Rudolph’s pre-defamation reputation wasn’t as pristine as he’ll try to characterize it as.

There’s actually precedent for defamation litigation involving the Steelers. As noted by Bouchette, former Raiders defensive back George Atkinson sued Steelers coach Chuck Noll for defamation in 1977 for saying that Atkinson is part of the NFL’s “criminal element.” Noll won at trial.

Along the way, Noll admitted while testifying that some of his own players could be included in that same category. Which, amazingly, prompted Steelers cornerback Mel Blount to sue his own coach for defamation. Blount wisely dropped the lawsuit, presumably in light of the broad privilege that applies to statement made within the context of litigation. And Blount continued to play for the man he sued through 1983.

It’s unclear how much longer Rudolph will be playing for the Steelers. And the stain that Garrett has placed on Rudolph’s reputation could follow him to his next NFL city — possibly preventing him from having a next NFL city. So maybe he needs to fully develop the evidence and hope it shows he didn’t use a slur, regardless of whether Rudolph would be able to win at trial.

41 responses to “Will Mason Rudolph actually sue Myles Garrett?

  1. There isn’t a white or black man in this country who hasn’t used the N word at least once. Rudolph would be risking someone finding out when he actually did use the word and blowing the doors off his case and career. Let it go.

  2. If he doesn’t it makes him less believable. If it’s me and I’m innocent and in the financial position Mason is – I do it even if it costs me money because your reputation has been sullied. IF I win the suit – I donate all the money and don’t keep a dime.

  3. Everyone assumes that since no one else heard it, it didn’t happen. What if you assume it WAS said, but no one else heard it? Mason’s continued rebuttals sound a lot like someone who is guilty but thinks if he shouts he isn’t often enough, everyone will believe him.
    And since there is no evidence, he’s pretty safe in doing so.
    Rudolph grew up in S. Carolina. I’m guessing he’s heard the word before, and quite possibly used it. (Grew up outside Detroit so I know I did.) There’s no reason to assume he’s squeaky clean in all of this, (other than it’s easy to blame the person of color). I’m guessing he really doesn’t want all of his family, and Jr. High, High School and college teammates and friends being interviewed, under oath, saying he never showed any… prejudicial tendencies, shall we say?

  4. I guess we’re going to have to read about this for the whole darn summer. God, it’s getting so bad I’m starting to miss all the Favre retirement stories. At least those stores were occasionally amusing.

  5. “There’s no real way to tell if it did happen or not, it’s all just ‘he said, she said’”

    That’s not how it works. If you make a public statement it’s up to YOU to prove it. Not the other guy to disprove it. It’s a lot like the old “innocent till proven guilty” routine. Garrett has to back up his lie in court with credible evidence. If he can’t then he’s liable.

  6. “If he doesn’t it makes him less believable.”

    No, if he doesn’t it makes him look like the bigger man.

  7. I don’t think Mason Rudolphs reputation was harmed.
    He’s still a bad QB and everyone knows it.
    Its not like this would have any impact on future employment.

  8. redlikethepig says:

    “Garrett has to back up his lie in court with credible evidence. If he can’t then he’s liable.”

    I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think he has to prove it was said; he has to prove he BELIEVES it was said. If he believes it’s true, there is no malicious intent.
    He made it clear right after the incident that he heard it, and believed that someone else should have heard it, or that the mike’s on players and the field would have picked it up. So far, that hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t said. And it certainly shows that he truly believes Rudolph said something. This isn’t going to court.

  9. Would the players union (unofficially) get in the way? NFLPA on NFLPA crime as the NFLPA heads into an negotiation.

    Bravo for getting rid of the like button! Attention seeking like hunters are a burden on civility.

  10. Did Delanie Walker call Myles a racial slur when Garrett punched him or did the Jets QB Trevor Siemian who Myles ended his season on a late hit?

  11. These guys both need to let it go. Every moment they keep it going just makes things worse for both of them. It will never be conclusively proven one way or the other – there is no possible way to do that – so the only outcome of pursuing it is that they will both just get more and more associated with it, to the point that it stays with them forever.

    Both sides already have all the plausible deniability they’re going to get. Nothing will be resolved by either of them pursuing it any further.

  12. No idea why anyone would think it “amazing” that Mel Blount sued Chuck for defamation. Mel was a cornerback.

  13. I work in PR where crisis management scenarios are constructed for all manner of disputes and in PR 101, once you have the upper hand, never give up the high ground. Mason Rudolph (some may disagree) has the high ground in the sense that Garrett had made the accusation without a single shred of evidence. If Rudolph files suit, he climbs down to Garrett’s level and as everybody already knows, you can’t climb into a mud pit without gettting dirty. He’s best to let it go, Garrett has already cemented his own reputation as a dirty player who throws mud when he’s in a bind, let him live with that.

  14. no matter how compelling the discovery process and the trial would be, it makes sense for Rudolph to let it go — especially since Garrett’s defense lawyers would undoubtedly delve into every nook and cranny of Rudolph’s life in an effort to develop any evidence that could be used to show that Rudolph’s pre-defamation reputation wasn’t as pristine as he’ll try to characterize it as. So if someone makes you out to be a racist you should just let it go great advice florio🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  15. NO. mason rudolph will not sue.

    This is one of those “lance armstrong” type of lawyer grandstanding hollow threats.

    mason rudolph should have played with better sportsmanship.
    rudolph chose to try to rip off a Garrett’s helmet
    and potentially put Garrett at risk.

  16. xbam says:
    it will get settled…the public will never know the results due to a confidentiality agreement…

    Putting aside the issue of whether or not he could win (unlikely), filing a lawsuit in this circumstance would be an attempt by Mason Rudolph to clear his name and protect his reputation.Settling quietly under the table wouldn’t accomplish that goal.

  17. Mason should just forget Garrett. Myles will be broke before long and the NFL has lots of money to be sued in court. The video is self evident…a crime was committed no matter what Mason may or may not have said while being slammed to the turf and pinned there. No one should get their body pulled off the ground by their head and helmet and then beaten full force on the head by that helmet. The NFL is ultimately responsible. The game was out of hand way before this with head hunting going on the whole game by the browns.

  18. Garrett not could sue Rudolph for defamation on the same grounds?

    I don’t think either of them could win, but it’s interesting which side of the story PFT is cheerleading.

  19. How could Rudolph, or anyone else, claim Garrett acted with “actual malice”? He first brought this up when he thought he was in a setting where he could tell his side of the story openly and honestly without fearing it would become public. He told this in a room with NFL/Union representatives and it was supposed to be a confidential setting. This was leaked by someone other than himself. If anything, the person responsible for leaking the comment acted with malice, not Garrett. Garrett didn’t double down on this until afterwords.

  20. Why bother? Litigation is expensive and a pain in the rear, not to mention Rudolph has already won in the court of public opinion.

  21. Main thing he stood up to Garrett , who is only concern is about how he is looked upon not the fact he used a weapon against a fellow NFL player, with no guilt

  22. “… no matter how compelling the discovery process and the trial would be, it makes sense for Rudolph to let it go — especially since Garrett’s defense lawyers would undoubtedly delve into every nook and cranny of Rudolph’s life …”

    This is why women are reluctant to have rapists arrested.

  23. Who in the Steelers’ org thought it was a good idea to pass the ball in the shadow of their own end zone with about 20 seconds left in a game that was out of reach? If Rudy comes out in the reverse victory formation and takes a knee none of this happens. This thought occurred to me while Mike Tomlin was whining on ESPN.

  24. It appears that no comprehensive forensic analysis has yet been done on a frame by frame basis of all available video; the NFL says only that they did not hear it on the microphones they had on the field. No player has confirmed Garrett’s account, but the NFL has made no names available of the players interviewed. A suit by Rudolph will likely entail investigation into the forensics, NFL investigation and interview Steeler and Brown players under oath. Anyone wanna bet that something was said? In my experience spanning four decades as a lawyer, slander suits tend to do tremendous damage to the plaintiffs whatever the outcome. The book QB VII comes to mind.

  25. False and unproven claims of racist behavior need to be in the eyes of the law a hate crime, punishable on par with the worst of other hate crimes. What Garrett is doing is just as despicable as any racial slur.

  26. bodinbrown: what does that have to do, with Garrett’s inexplicable behavior?? Blaming a play call is absolutely weak.

  27. Mason Groinkick better shut his big mouth and go home. This subpar backup QB is specializing in becoming a massive distraction. Not a good look.

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