We thought the fallout from the Myles Garrett–Mason Rudolph saga from last season was over this week after the former was reinstated from his indefinite suspension and the latter had his $50,000 fine stemming from that mid-November game upheld upon appeal. As it turns out, it may actually just be beginning.
Shortly after being reinstated, Garrett, who claimed during his appeal hearing that Rudolph had used a racial slur to refer to him while they were on the field, reiterated his claim, this time in public. We first learned of this through a leak, and he was later forced to issue a statement acknowledging it, saying, “I know what I heard”.
He has now given an interview with ESPN on Outside the Lines, during which he tells Mina Kimes, via Jake Trotter, that Rudolph, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, “called me the N-word. He called me a stupid N-word”.
This was a charge that Rudolph vehemently denied last season and which he took quite personally. “It’s totally untrue”, he told reporters of the claim back in November. On the day the allegation came out, he was pulled from practice and a media session was cancelled.
“I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he would go that route after the fact”, he would go on to say. When asked if he had said anything inflammatory toward Garrett, he responded, “absolutely not. There was nothing. Not even close”.
His teammate, Cameron Heyward, also told reporters that Rudolph “was pretty distraught” by the charge. “’I’m going to be labeled at that’. I just don’t think that’s right. That’s my teammate. I’m going to fight for him. I’m going to do what’s best for him. That kid made a bad mistake, but he never crossed the line when he talked about a racial slur”.
“When he said it, it kind of sparked something, but I still tried to let it go and still walk away”, Garrett told Kimes. “But once he came back, it kind of reignited the situation. And not only have you escalated things past what they needed to be with such little time in the game left, now you’re trying to re-engage and start a fight again. It’s definitely not entirely his fault, it’s definitely both parties doing something that we shouldn’t have been doing”.
It’s clear that Garrett is not interested in putting the situation behind him but rather making sure that he has the opportunity to tell his side of the story for why he slammed Rudolph’s own helmet into his head, risking serious injury to a fellow player.
The league issued a statement shortly after the allegation came out that they “found no such evidence” to support Garrett’s claim. While some questioned why the league would take that step, the reality is that he used that as part of his case to have his suspension reduced.
Unfortunately, it goes without saying that this will not be the last we hear of this story, and we will never actually know what was said. Garrett may well believe he heard Rudolph use the N-word, whether or not Rudolph actually did, and you can’t convince somebody that they didn’t hear something they believe they did.