July 19, 2011 / 8:54 PM / in 6 years

Twitter-using Steelers player sues over lost endorsement deal

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is suing Hanesbrands Inc. for terminating an endorsement deal after the football player posted controversial messages on Twitter following the death of Osama bin Laden, his attorney said on Tuesday.

<p>Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop (55) in the third quarter during the NFL's Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone</p>

Mendenhall used the social media site on May 2 to denounce the spontaneous celebrations that erupted on the news that bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

Some Twitter users responded angrily, questioning whether Mendenhall would have said the same about celebrations of Hitler’s death.

Mendenhall was notified by the company on May 5 that it was terminating his contract because it disagreed with certain statements he had made on Twitter three days earlier, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where Hanesbrands is based.

He had signed a contract with the underwear maker in 2008 to promote its Champion sports apparel brand.

The lawsuit, which alleges breach of contract, seeks damages of more than $1 million.

Mendenhall’s attorney, Steven Thompson, said the suit was not about money.

“It’s about his ability to comment on social issues,” he said.

A spokesman for Hanesbrands did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Reporting by Daniel Lovering. Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan

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