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Rashard Mendenhall Sues Champion: Dropped Him Over bin Laden Tweets

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 19, 2011 6:32 PM

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has sued his ex-sponsor, Hanesbrand, the parent company of Champion. Mendenhall's Champion lawsuit comes after some questionable tweets about Osama bin Laden.

While many Americans celebrated after Osama bin Laden was killed, Mendenhall took a different approach.

He took to his Twitter account to express sympathy over the death of the al Qaeda leader, reports CBS News. 

A few hours after he tweeted to the world about his views about Osama bin Laden, Mendenhall was summarily axed by Champion, a company that makes athletic apparel. Champion decided to sever ties with him, essentially ending the endorsement deal he had with the company.

Mendenhall surely wasn't happy with Champion's decision. He's alleging that Champion is punishing him for exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, reports CBS News. He's also seeking around $1 million in damages, though he says the lawsuit isn't about the money: it's about vindicating the rights of celebrity spokesmen everywhere who express their opinions (and get punished for it).

Unfortunately for Mendenhall, he might have a long road ahead of him if he wants to prevail.

Mendenhall's contract with Champion allowed the company to terminate his agreement if he "commits or is arrested for any crime or becomes involved in any situation or occurrence tending to bring Mendenhall into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult or offend the majority of the consuming public," CBS News reports.

With this kind of clause, Mendenhall will likely have a tough time winning. After all, it seems fairly reasonable to consider Mendenhall's tweets as the type of posts that might "insult or offend the majority of the consuming public," especially since it seems that many American's aren't exactly sympathetic to Osama bin Laden's point of view.

Now that Rashard Mendenhall's sued Hanesbrand, should we expect a trial? Not likely. A dismissal or settlement seems more likely. Despite the long odds on Mendenhall's Champion lawsuit, some 64% of the public think Champion was right to drop Mendenhall, reports USA Today.

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