For a good portion of the day Tuesday, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall was a prominent trending topic on Twitter after a series of tweets questioning why people would celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death. Like any sentiment on social media that runs counter to popular opinion, the reaction to Mendenhall’s statements was swift, angry and at times over the top.
Steelers’ president Art Rooney II immediately distanced himself from the comments and suggested (along with many others) that Mendenhall would be “well-advised” to apologize. Those people have gotten their wish.
Mendenhall on Wednesday issued a statement on his blog, clarifying what he couldn’t quite say in 140 characters. He made it clear that he does not support bin Laden, nor is he against the goals of the United States.
This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics. In the bible, Ezekiel 33:11 states, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!…”. I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.
Mendenhall added that he was only trying to generate conversation, not controversy and apologized for the timing of his comments and for any unintended hurt he may have caused.
We can only hope now that this calms some of the malicious response that exploded on the Internet in the past 24 hours and maybe once that happens, people can start to have the type of rational conversation that Mendenhall intended when he first tweeted.
Although sometimes, I wonder if that’s even possible on Twitter.