Mendenhall sues Champion
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall is sueing Champion LLC. for breach of contract, after they fired him suddenly in May following his notorious 9/11 tweets upon Bin-Laden’s capture. Check out the full story!
Mendenhall’s lawyers filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in North Carolina, seeking roughly $1 million in damages from Hanesbrands, Inc., the Winston-Salem-based corporate parent of Champion.
The complaint says Champion’s decision to end its endorsement deal with Mendenhall in May, days after he questioned the public celebration of bin Laden’s death, violates a contract extension the two parties signed in 2010, worth over $1 million. Mendenhall first signed a deal to endorse Champion products when he entered the league in 2008.
“For Rashard, this really is not about the money. This is about whether he can express his opinion,” said Steven Thompson, a Chicago-based attorney representing Mendenhall.
A spokesman for Hanesbrands did not return a call seeking comment by early Tuesday afternoon. But legal experts said Mendenhall may have a difficult time proving his case.
“An athlete contracts away his free speech rights in signing his endorsement deal,” said Jeffrey Standen, a sports law professor and associate dean at Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore. “What the sponsor is buying is the athlete’s name and image, and their name and image are related to public behavior and opinions.”