Finding Some Sanity
On Point with Chris Papst
It's always been my belief that athletes should not get involved in political discussions. There is just something about the mixing of sports and politics that is souring to me. Here's why: Recently, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, recklessly opined about Osama Bin Laden's death. But while he is getting hammered for his comments, I feel he did make one interesting point.
In full disclosure, I'm a lifelong Steelers fan (one who is still bitter about the Super Bowl).
Earlier this month, when news spread of Bin Laden's death, America rejoiced, which led Mendenhall to tweet the following: What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side.
Unfortunately for Mendenhall, he wasn't finished. In a series of followup tweets, he apparently questioned who was behind 911. Wrote Mendehall, “We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition-style.”
The Steelers and Mendenhall are now in full damage control mode. Art Rooney II, the Steelers President, released this statement: “It's hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done, and we can only hope this will lead to our troops coming home soon.”
Mendenhall has received sharp criticism over his comments and rightfully so. To question who was behind 911 is beyond reprehensible. Twenty-seven hundred people lost their lives when those planes flew into those towers. If nothing else, he should at least have the respect not to insult their loved ones by espousing some conspiratorial nonsense. As far as hating someone you never heard speak; we have heard Bin Laden speak via numerous videos released throughout the years.
This is a terrible situation for Mendenahall and the Steelers. But amid the controversy, he did make a point that bears further discussion.
On September 11, 2001, I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. I lived off-campus and took a university bus to class everyday. And this day was no different. My roommate and I were alone on the bus sitting across from one another when the music suddenly stopped. A warning sounded and the bus driver turned up the volume. That is when we heard the news.
We got off the bus and joined hundreds of other students at a few small television sets watching the World Trade Centers burn. After class (yes, we still had class), my friend and I returned to those televisions. A short while later, the coverage cut to a scene in the Middle East where people were cheering what had happened. It was disgusting to watch.
Fast forward nine-and-a-half years: Bin Laden is finally killed – a certain victory for not only America, but the global war on terrorism. The morning after the news broke, a co-worker sent me a link on Facebook. It was a video of a few hundred people in West Virginia dancing around a bonfire in celebration. I immediately remembered back to a similar scene nine-and-a-half years earlier. And I have to admit, it bothered me in much the same way.
I fully understand the differences in these two scenes, but overall there seems to be something about celebrating death that is wrong. Instead of throwing a party when a terrible person is killed, I feel we should mourn the fact that terrible people live. I do believe there is evil in his world. And even though I feel it is necessary to confront evil and destroy it, I don't feel that success in that endeavor is necessarily cause for jubilation.
I don't want to compare those celebrating in West Virginia to those celebrating in the Middle East. And I don't want to be happy that someone was killed. But I am. This is a very conflicting and difficult situation for me to ponder. Is it for you?
Chris Papst is a two-time Emmy Award winning reporter for CBS-21 News. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @chrispapst.