Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
A compelling new narrative has come out of the ongoing saga surrounding one of the most intense and “unfortunate” on-field “incidents” in recent NFL history. After a fight involving several Browns and Steelers players, defensive star Myles Garrett received an indefinite suspension, while quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was involved in a hotly discussed fight with Garrett, did not receive a suspension… after he did receive a helmet to the skull, courtesy of Garrett.
Some critics immediately piled on Rudolph, saying league racial undertones allowed him to escape any form of punishment for his role in the fracas. But, what, exactly was Rudolph’s role? Memes began appearing on social media, as well as video stills showing Rudolph seeming to connect with a “low blow” on Garrett just before the defensive end exploded, tearing off Rudolph’s helmet.
But those memes were just the first salvo. Reports began to come out, starting with ESPN, that Garrett claims Rudolph utter a racial slur, and that – not the low blow – is what set him off. Garrett has not officially confirmed this account, but other sources have denied it. But what did Rudolph say in response?
Initially, Rudolph was contrite, telling reporters he could offer no excuse for the fight or his behavior leading up to it. And, about the slur? Rudolph was less forthcoming. The Associated Press is reporting Rudolph ducked reporters after a recent practice when the announcement of the racial slur allegation was first reported. However, Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten came out and told reporters that Rudolph “vehemently denies” the report of hurling a slur at Garrett.
Fellow Steelers players are coming to their quarterback’s defense. Cam Heyward told the media that the accuracy of the alleged incendiary comments was questionable: “I thought it would have been brought up right after (the game), there would have been multiple guys speaking up about it… I don’t condone racial slurs ever and Mason, dealing with that, he’s going to be labeled for it. That’s just not right. I don’t appreciate that… (Rudolph) said ‘I’m going to be labeled as a racist’ and I just don’t think that’s right… He never crossed the line (saying) racial slurs.”
Even as the sports media and fans continue to offer their opinions, as long as Rudolph has teammates and team reps in his corner, supporting him and his message, he’s probably right in saying little or less about it. The League has spoken, and media will talk about it no matter what. Rudolph, at least at this juncture, gains nothing by offering additional denials.