Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall accused the team’s current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of being racist while supporting ex-teammate Antonio Brown on Twitter this week.
On Thursday, Mendenhall, who played for the team between 2008 and 2012, took some time to defend wide receiver Antonio Brown, whose rift with the Steelers quickly became public and led to his eventual trade to the Oakland Raiders in March.
In a series of posts, Mendenhall expressed sympathy for Brown, tweeting, “I know he seems outta pocket right now, but I seriously feel for [Brown].”
In a follow-up post, the ex-NFL player wrote, “As a black athlete in this country, you can literally lay your body out and give your entire being for a higher cause, the greater good of a TEAM.”
Mendenhall’s tweets came after Brown took several subtle shots at Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for expressing his support for Roethlisberger. In one tweet, Brown told his followers, “Do not listen to any NFL player who haven’t got paid yet! They will do and say anything to make they going to get paid even if it’s compromising integrity or anything!”
Smith-Schuster is in the middle of a four-year rookie contract that he signed in 2017. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year.
Between 2013 and 2018, Brown and Roethlisberger formed one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems. Both made the Pro Bowl multiple times — Brown himself even earned first-team All-Pro selections from 2014 to 2017. But cracks in the two’s relationship began to show as early as October 2017, when Roethlisberger missed a wide-open Brown in a game against the Ravens, according to USA Today. Brown was later seen expressing his frustration on the sidelines by tossing a water cooler.
Mendenhall suggested that the Steelers left Brown “out to dry” despite the fact that the wide receiver provided nearly a decade of “professional excellence to the city of Pittsburgh.” When a fellow user asked Mendenhall what made Brown quit on his former team, the former running back didn’t mince his words.
“Alright, I’ll end the mystery…[Roethlisberger’s] racist and [Brown’s] black. He had to catch balls from a racist quarterback,” Mendenhall replied. “Every honest player knows it, it’s not a big deal. He was just supposed to take his lickings and move on, like a slave for real.”
The response to the accusation on Twitter was swift, with one columnist asking Mendenhall to provide examples to back his claim. Three hours later, Mendenhall backpedaled on his earlier tweet.
“Please allow the dialogue in sports to be equal,” he wrote. “Why’s it so easy to shoot at one player, but not the other? [Roethlisberger’s] not racist. Just like [Brown’s] not a dirtbag.”
That same Thursday, Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster seemingly inserted himself into the Brown-Steelers fiasco by pleading with players and former teammates on Twitter to keep their issues in-house.
“Moving forward…any former player or affiliate of the Steelers who has an issue with anyone still in the locker room, please contact me or [fellow Steelers lineman] Maurkice Pouncey or anyone else you feel you can talk to,” Foster wrote. “Whoever you have an issue with, we will get you their number so you can address them. I PROMISE. These media takes might give y’all good traffic on your social media outlets but the guys still in that locker room, who y’all still know personally have to answer for those comments.”
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