I am so glad that Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has taken his thoughts now to a larger medium instead of trying to convey his thoughts and beliefs on the killing of Osama bin Laden and the events of 9/11 on Twitter. As I mentioned in my first post after his initial tweets, trying to convey a message on such a delicate subject simply can not be done in 140 character messages and I fully expected the backlash and attention it has received over the last few days. I was hopeful he would create a blog or talk to the Pittsburgh media to further exercise his freedom of speech and he has. The first post Mendenhall posted to his blog which can be found at http://r34mendenhall.blogspot.com/ , Mendenhall says he is thankful for the opportunity last year to travel over seas and participate in a football camp put on for the children of US troops that were stationed in Germany. He says those events had a significant impact on his life. He acknowledges how devastating 9/11 was to the United States and to the people whose families were affected on that horrible day. Mendenhall explains that his tweets were never meant to stir up controversy and that they were intended to generate conversation and open, honest discussions. He closes by saying that he apologizes for the timing as it was not meant to do harm and that they were only meant to encourage anyone reading his comments to think.
I think Mendenhall has made a wise choice going to a bigger platform, but he should still consider getting the word out through an even larger medium though. The blog is a great start and I commend him for that. What is most curious though is why he deleted his tweet that read, “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.” If those are truly his beliefs, why delete it? He certainly could of expanded on that thought as well in this blog post. By deleting the tweet, it makes it seem like he was either forced to do so or that he does not firmly stand by his comment. We may never know and many will not care. He will be questioned about that deletion for sure over the next few days. Hopefully he will continue to use his blog to explain his thoughts on it and perhaps why he deleted it.
As I mentioned previously, the freedom of speech is a freedom that we should never take lightly. With that freedom of speech though comes the repercussions of how others might react to your speech, including your employer. Like it or not, Mendenhall is a high profile person and some may care more about his thoughts than others. Some just care how many yards he rushes for and how many touchdowns he scores. Others may want to hear further into his way of thinking outside of football. Different people will react different ways and that is what makes society what it is. Different thoughts are fine, but the higher profile a person is, the more likely they will be heard by others and the bigger the audience they certainly will have.
My wish for Mendenhall moving forward is for him to continue blogging his thoughts as he clearly has quite a bit to say. It is his right to say what he thinks whether we want to agree with him or not. Regardless of the size of medium he does use, he should still expect both agreement and criticism. At least this way he will not have to do so in cryptic 140 character messages and they less chance that his comments will be misconstrued. Twitter is good for amplifying news and small thoughts, but it does have it\’s limitations. I think Mendenhall has seen this now in action.