Rashard Mendenhall is a conspiracy theorist. That is what I learned about him over the last few days.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' running back tweeted, hours after the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs, not only that he didn’t believe the reputed terrorist might not have been behind the 9/11 attacks, but that jet planes were not the lone devices that brought down the World Trade Center towers.
“We’ll never know what really happened,” Mendenhall wrote. “I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
The former University of Illinois star is not the only American who does not accept the events of that day as it played out or what was published in the 9/11 Commission Report months later. Terrorist-attack skeptics have come forth to question everything from the fashion in which the towers crumbled to the New York streets, to the government‘s involvement in what transpired that horrific day.
Following those tweets, Mendenhall has become a very polarizing figure. Listening to Pittsburgh sports radio and reading blog or message board posts, Mendenhall has been viewed as a bin Laden sympathizer, unpatriotic, ignorant and some have suggested the Steelers cut him following the lockout. Support for him and the comments have been few and far in between.
However, Mendenhall is no different than we are. I understand that these inner-most thoughts that turned public could be viewed as another dumb jock not thinking before using the loaded guns that are social networking sites.
What can’t be dismissed is that there are people from all walks of life who believe in conspiracy theories. Some are never going to waver in their belief that former President John F. Kennedy was murdered by multiple people, and not just Lee Harvey Oswald.
Every now and then, I come across claims that the moon landing was filmed in a Hollywood studio or that the 2000 presidential election was rigged so that George W. Bush could win the White House.
Billionaire Donald Trump, a contingency of Tea Party members, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Luke Scott and some elected officials are/were under the impression that President Barack Obama was born in another country.
The world of sports is no stranger to conspiracy theories either.
Anyone ever heard of the supposed “frozen envelope” that allowed the New York Knicks to grab east coast icon Patrick Ewing with the No.1 pick in the 1985 NBA draft? There are people to this day who are quite certain David Stern was behind the scenes pulling the strings on that one.
Many observers point to a YouTube video as evidence of the alleged coup.
Pro sports basketball conspiracy theorists say Michael Jordan did not retire from the NBA following the 1993 season. In fact, voices in the wilderness believe Jordan was suspended by the league due to "His Airness'" gambling habits.
Sticking with the basketball theme, the NBA is accused of fixing the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers to boost television ratings for the NBA finals.
Cynics have examined Game 6 of the series where the favored Lakers attempted 27 free throws in the fourth quarter and seemed to be the beneficiary of favorable calls throughout the contest.
Gasoline was poured on the argument when disgraced referee Tim Donaghy intimated that the league advised the game officials to tilt Game 6 toward the Lakers, who were trailing at the time 3-2, so the series could be extended to seven games.
As a result of these examples, a segment of sports fans are now turned off by the sport, saying the league has predetermined champions and goes out of its way to cater to star players and big market franchises.
The product might as well be World Wrestling Entertainment in their eyes.
Broadcaster Ken Hawk Harrelson is certain that every big league umpire has a vendetta against the Chicago White Sox.
Rarely were responses to those assertions met with the same venom that Mendenhall’s tweets about 9/11 and bin Laden were.
What does that say about our country when one can express skepticism about some events and not others? I’m far from a conspiracy theorist, though. I tend to view all sides of arguments and then draw an opinion or conclusions based on the information presented.
Maybe that’s what Mendenhall and 9/11 Truthers did. Maybe that what Kings or New Jersey Nets fans did. If those individuals have a different belief or view of certain happenings, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack rationale, common sense, hate America or want to see pro basketball disappear like the CBA.
Our country is a melting pot. Not everyone believes in the same god, what the definition of marriage is or if Justin Bieber is a legit entertainer. These contrasts are what make America great.
There is room for conspiracy theorists and those who attempt to debunk them. It should be embraced. But there should be no room for hate-filled rants and insults aimed at people who don’t share the same stance as the rest of the populous, considering we are alike to a degree.
One might roll their eyes at political conspiracy theories, but are in lock step that Stern dropped the hammer on Jordan 17 years ago. That is who we are as people. We waver in thoughts and beliefs daily.
We change our perceptions about our world like we change underwear, to fit our biases or preconceived notions.
We are all hypocrites.
I think it took a bruising running back to show us that.
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