UPDATE (4:23 PM): The NFL has said they found “no evidence” of Rudolph using a racial slur Thursday night.
Our original story below.
Did a racial slur from Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph directed at Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett escalate the melee that took place Thursday night? According to a Thursday morning report by ESPN.com, that’s what Garrett claimed during his indefinite suspension appeal hearing with the NFL on Wednesday.
According to Josina Anderson and Adam Schefter of ESPN, Garrett alleged that Rudolph called him a racial slur just prior to the Thursday night melee that took place at the end of the game. That melee resulted in Garrett ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and then swinging it and hitting the quarterback in the head with it.
Rudolph’s legal team, along with the Steelers, have vehemently denied Garrett’s racial slur accusations.
“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” Steelers PR spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement. “He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
On Wednesday, Rudolph told reporters he didn’t say anything to provoke Garrett or escalate the situation.
Rudolph’s attorney, Timothy M. Younger, has also released a statement concerning Garrett’s racial slur allegations against Rudolph.
“According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason’s uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.
“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment.”
According to Tom Withers of the Associated Press, no Browns players have mentioned anything about Rudolph using racial slur to this point. Additionally, several Steelers players such as defensive captain Cameron Heyward and guard Ramon Foster have both been since quoted as saying that Rudolph used no such slur.
“I can tell you personally I talked to Mason right after the game and I said, ‘How did this escalate?’ And he told me he kept dragging him to the ground and they were going back and forth, but it never got to racial slur. For it to be used in your appeal is stupid to me,” Heyward said on Thursday.
Foster talked about the soon-after-post-game tweet from Anderson of ESPN that suggested that Rudolph probably said something off color to get Garrett to react the way he did Thursday night. Anderson has since deleted that tweet, however.
“The people that painted a picture of him saying a racist remark or him grabbing him in the groin area is ludicrous,” Foster said in a radio interview a few days ago.
As of right now, it doesn’t seem like Garrett has much backing in the way of evidence that Rudolph used a racial slur last Thursday night. The fact that it took nearly a week for Garrett to bring that accusation up, and during his appeal hearing at that, makes it sound like the Browns defensive lineman is attempting to do or say anything to get his indefinite suspension shortened.
Were any players mic’d near the Thursday night melee mic’d up? What did the referee nearest the melee hear? I’m sure the NFL already has the answers to those two questions by now.
We obviously have not heard the end of the Thursday night melee and the racial slur accusations made by Garrett. It will be interesting to see what else comes out concerning this whole incident.