The ugly incident that took place in the final seconds of a game between the Steelers and Browns last November 14 at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium has been brought back into the spotlight in recent days.
If you’ll recall (and who can really forget it?), a nasty fight broke out between Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett, when Garrett took Rudolph to the turf on a short pass play at the end of a game Cleveland was leading by two touchdowns.
Rudolph took exception to this, and the two went at it in a fight that ultimately resulted in Garrett ripping Rudolph’s helmet off and bashing him over the head with it.
This led to multiple fines and suspensions—including a three-game suspension for center Maurkice Pouncey who violently came to Rudolph’s defense by attacking Garrett (the suspension was reduced to two games upon appeal) and an indefinite suspension for Garrett through at least the rest of the 2019 regular season and postseason.
The reason the Ugly Brawl At The Mistake By The Lake has come back into the spotlight in recent days is because Garrett’s indefinite suspension has been lifted and he’s now eligible to play again in 2020.
Another unfortunate reason the violent brawl has been called back onto the stage of public debate is because Garrett, who stated during his appeal last November that a racial slur directed at him by Rudolph was the reason he lost all reason, doubled down on that accusation during an interview for ESPN’s Behind The Lines that aired Saturday morning. Not only did Garrett accuse Rudolph of calling him a ‘stupid n-word’ at some point during or after he took the quarterback to the turf, he implied that the NFL covered up any audio evidence that may have existed.
Below is a quote from the Garrett interview, courtesy of Cleveland.com, where he implies that a cover-up took place:
“Most quarterbacks wear mics in their helmets. He somehow lost his helmet and had to get another one without a mic. There were guys who were mic’d up near me—near us—during that time who didn’t hear anything, and from what I’ve heard, there [may] have been audio during that game that could’ve heard something or could not have heard something, but they don’t want to say.”
“So something was said,” Garrett continues. “I know something was said. Now whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it, that’s up to them.”
To sum up what Garrett is saying: Nobody actually heard Rudolph utter this racial slur, Rudolph didn’t have a helmet with a mic (by the way, how does Garrett know that?), the microphones the other players were wearing may have picked up the audio, but the NFL won’t admit that such evidence could exist and is covering for Rudolph. (To put it in deadbeat tenant terms, Garrett mailed his rent—postage stamp and everything—but the post office must have lost it.)
That’s quite the stretch, even for a man of Garrett’s size and reach.
It’s too bad Garrett isn’t a journalist, because I would demand to know his sources.
As for the racial slant to this whole thing—you know the part that may haunt Rudolph for the rest of his life?—Garrett had this to say:
“But I don’t want to make it a racial thing, honestly. It’s over with for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s over with for Mason, so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football.”
Garrett also said in the interview that any racial slur uttered by Rudolph was no justification for what he did—smashing him over the head with a helmet.
If he didn’t want to make it about race, he wouldn’t have made it about race. If there was no justification for his actions, no excuse—not even that he was on the receiving end of the very worst of all racial slurs—would have been offered up for why he committed a violent act that could have potentially killed another human being.
The accusation is clearly an attempt to justify his actions.
As for a cover-up? That really makes no sense.
What would benefit the NFL more: Protecting a low-profile backup quarterback such as Mason Rudolph by burying audio evidence that he called another player the n-word or providing Myles Garrett, one of its up and coming defensive stars—a potential multi-time Defensive Player of the Year—with perhaps the ultimate excuse for why he almost committed manslaughter on national television?
No, it wouldn’t have prevented a lengthy suspension, but it would have opened the door for public support and sympathy to come flooding Garrett’s way.
Why would the league be so afraid to expose Rudolph for being a racist—or at least using that particular slur? We’re not talking about a sacred cow like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. We’re talking about a backup quarterback who may never be more than a fringe player for the entirety of his career.
Protecting a racist backup quarterback at the expense of an up-and-coming defensive superstar seems like quite a strange sword for the NFL to fall on.
Is Garrett suggesting the league is simply afraid to broach the subject of race? That subject is broached every time someone brings up the fact that there aren’t many minority head coaches and executives. That subject is broached every time a player kneels during the National Anthem in an attempt to raise awareness of racial issues.
The NFL doesn’t shy away from the subject in those cases, why would it now, for Mason Rudolph?
The NFL could have severely punished Rudolph for hurling a racial slur at one of its stars and used it as a shining example that there is no place in its league for such hate.
The whole thing smells bad to me, and the odor seems to be coming from Garrett’s direction. Fortunately for him, his exceptional talent will allow him to put this all behind him and go on and have a stellar NFL career. As for Rudolph? Unfortunately for him, he’s likely not going to have the kind of career that will make people forget that such an accusation was leveled against him.
People will always wonder.
Someone is lying, of course. If it’s Garrett, I just hope he comes clean before his accusation becomes a permanent stain on Rudolph’s legacy.
Myles Garrett may be ready to move on, but Mason Rudolph may never get that chance.