Rashard Mendenhall’s lawsuit is apparently moving forward now after a judge ruled that he’s at least got a legitimate gripe against Champion for canceling his endorsement contract. As the article indicates below, the sports world and celebrities everywhere will be watching this case unfold. Should Mendenhall ultimately win this case it could definitely affect future cases where companies who endorse players find they have less ground to terminate contracts in cases like this.
Whether or not you agree with the tweets that started this controversy, those in the public eye are always under a higher level of scrutiny than the rest of us. If John Q. Public tweets this thoughts to the world, nobody gives it anything more than a shake of the head and maybe a quick “is he nuts” thought.
With Rashard still recovering from knee surgery this offseason, he’ll have plenty of time to plan his case with his attorneys. Win or lose though, this case will bring more press back on the Steelers for something they clearly were not pleased with to begin with.
After Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall wrote on Twitter that no one should celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, and questioned whether the collapse of the World Trade Center towers was really caused by hijacked planes, the athletic apparel company Champion ended its sponsorship relationship with him. Mendenhall responded by filing a lawsuit, and a judge has now decided to let that lawsuit move forward.
Whether Mendenhall’s lawsuit against Hanesbrands, the parent company of Champion, will ultimately be successful is a long way down the road. But the judge has ruled that Mendenhall has a plausible claim that Hanesbrands breached its contract with Mendenhall.
The Hollywood Reporter says Mendenhall’s lawsuit is being watched closely in the entertainment industry, where many celebrities have endorsement deals that contain clauses stipulating that the celebrity can’t do anything that would make the company he endorses look bad. The result of Mendenhall’s lawsuit may make companies and celebrities re-think the wording of those contractual clauses.
And for Mendenhall, the judge’s ruling is a step toward making Champion pay him the rest of the money on his endorsement deal, even though it’s probably safe to say we won’t see him appearing in any Champion ads again.
Excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter: When a company pays a celebrity to endorse its product, part of the contract typically contains a “morals clause” that forbids the person from engaging in actions that that would bring the company “into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.”
Morals clauses are everywhere in Hollywood talent contracts, but the standard contractual language might be too broad to stop a celebrity from being polemical on Twitter.