Champion drops Rashard Mendenhall

Updated: May 6, 2011, 3:03 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

It's been a rough week for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Just days after sending out controversial comments via Twitter about the death of Osama bin Laden and the events of 9/11, Mendenhall was dropped from his endorsement contract with Champion. USA Today first reported the news.

Champion sent the following statement to ESPN.com Friday:

"Champion is a strong supporter of the government's efforts to fight terrorism and is very appreciative of the dedication and commitment of the U.S. Armed Forces. Earlier this week, Rashard Mendenhall, who endorses Champion products, expressed personal comments and opinions regarding Osama bin Laden and the September 11 terrorist attacks that were inconsistent with the values of the Champion brand and with which we strongly disagreed. In light of these comments, Champion was obliged to conduct a business assessment to determine whether Mr. Mendenhall could continue to effectively communicate on behalf of and represent Champion with consumers.

"While we respect Mr. Mendenhall's right to express sincere thoughts regarding potentially controversial topics, we no longer believe that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion and we have notified Mr. Mendenhall that we are ending our business relationship. Champion has appreciated its association with Mr. Mendenhall during his early professional football career and found him to be a dedicated and conscientious young athlete. We sincerely wish him all the best."

Mendenhall caused a media firestorm this week with his comments, which forced the Steelers to release a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday, in reference to public reaction to the death of bin Laden, Mendenhall tweeted, "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..."

He also tweeted, in reference to the 9/11 terror attacks: "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."

Mendenhall wrote a clarification and apology Wednesday.

He agreed to a four-year extension with Champion on Sunday, but the company pulled the plug just a few days later. Mendenhall has endorsed Champion products since becoming a first-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2008.

Mendenhall led Pittsburgh in rushing the past two seasons. Last year he rushed for a career-high 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns for the reigning AFC champions.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at espnafc_north.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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