On the same day that the league office announced that Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett would be reinstated from an indefinite suspension handed to him for spamming a helmet onto the unprotected head of another player, that other player also had his $50,000 fine upheld, which was given to him for the role he played in the events leading up to his being bludgeoned with his own protective equipment.
That other player with be Mason Rudolph of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while he is out thousands of dollars, his greater concern stemming from all of this is the fact that Garrett has gone on to charge the two-year professional with the allegation of using a racial epithet.
Very shortly after being reinstated, Garrett was interviewed on ESPN, during which he stated that Rudolph had called him a “stupid N-word”. We originally learned of this allegation when it was leaked from his suspension appeal hearing months ago.
Though even the league has said that it has found no evidence of this being said, nor has anybody other than Garrett ever claimed to have heard it being said, the young quarterback has had to weather the storm of being labeled a racist. And head coach Mike Tomlin is not happy with it.
So unhappy, in fact, that he took the astounding step of volunteering to appear, not just on ESPN, but with Stephen A. Smith, to elaborate on a prior statement he made defending Rudolph. Smith asked him what culpability the quarterback held in what occurred, and this was his response:
I struggle with that, to be honest with you. It’s been a lot of negativity around Mason Rudolph. He got fined $50,000 for essentially getting beat up. His reputation has been tarnished because of the allegations, none of which was founded. He was a quarterback under losing circumstances at the end of a football game. Obviously he was an active participant in the altercation, but a lot of the things that had gone on beyond that, I struggle with.
In certain prominent sections of social media, one can easily deduce that Rudolph has come out of the incident in which he was struck with a blunt object looking like the bad guy based on how the two parties have been judged in the court of public opinion.
It’s rare that a head coach goes to bat for one of his players in such a way as Tomlin has, and I think that speaks to two things: one, which is the level of significance that the situation itself rises to; and two, the extent to which he believes in the innocence of his player.
Obviously for Steelers fans, it absolutely does feel as though he was fined $50,000 for getting beaten up. It is slightly more complicated than that, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though we have heard the last of this incident.