Skip to main content

If Major League Baseball officials are hoping that the uproar over the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scandal dies down soon, they need only to look at an ongoing National Football League controversy to understand it won’t be easy.

With a sizeable portion of the country convinced that there’s a racial issue to Colin Kaepernick’s disappearance from the NFL, the last thing that league needs is an ongoing controversy fueled by the alleged use of a racial slur.

But that’s what have now that Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has returned fire at Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and ESPN.

A racial component to an ugly fight at the end of a game

The NFL took a public relations hit in mid-November when an all-out fracas erupted late in the Cleveland Browns’ 21-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and used it to strike the Steelers quarterback on the head.

The altercation between teams that bitter AFC rivals earned Garrett an immediate indefinite suspension that ended up lasting six games before being terminated last week. Rudolph was fined $50,000 and multiple other players on both teams were also disciplined.

Garrett alleged that Rudolph precipitated the incident by directing a racial slur at him, an accusation that the quarterback and the Steelers have vehemently and consistently denied. Now, coach Mike Tomlin is speaking out more forcefully than ever before.

Mike Tomlin says the Pittsburgh Steelers are ‘hacked off’ at ESPN

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin says the Steelers are irate that ESPN revived the controversy by interviewing Miles Garrett over the weekend on “Outside The Lines,” where Garrett repeated his claim about what Rudolph said.

Tomlin said the interview was bad enough, but the damage was then compounded by what panelists then said.

“We were hacked off at what we saw this weekend,” Tomlin told co-host Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take.”

Tomlin said the panel discussion was an unfounded attack on Rudolph’s reputation that could wrongly affect public perception of the 24-year-old quarterback from Oklahoma State for years to come.

Myles Garrett accuses the Steelers of a cover-up

Mason Rudolph fought back after ESPN’s new interview with Myles Garrett, calling the defensive lineman’s accusations “1000 percent false” in a tweet. Rudolph’s agent has raised the possibility of suing for defamation.

Besides once again defending his player, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin dismissed Garrett’s claim the team participated in a cover-up of audio from the incident. Tomlin said he spoke to Browns players and officials in the aftermath of the fight and that no one gave any indication that racial language had been used.

Tomlin was upset that none of the league’s findings were mentioned by the ESPN panelists after Garrett’s interview on “Outside The Lines.”

The NFL investigated the Week 11 fight between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers and concluded that there was no evidence of a racial slur though it did find reasons to fine 33 players for their actions.

The league’s statement said there was no field-level audio available and that no players or game officials came forward to say Rudolph had said what Garrett alleges.