Terminating an NFL Player’s Endorsement Agreement for Polemic Tweets May Be Contract Breach–Mendenhall v. Hanes

21 05 2012

[Post by Venkat Balasubramani, with comments from Eric]

Mendenhall v. Hanesbrands, 2012 WL 1230743 (M.D.N.C.; Apr. 12, 2012)

This case has it all: Twitter, a pro football player, terrorism, Osama bin Laden and contract law geekiness!

Background: Rashard Mendenhall plays professional football as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mendenhall entered into an endorsement contract with Hanesbrands, which owns the Champion brand. The agreement between Hanesbrands and Mendenhall had a “morals clause,” which originally said that Hanesbrands could terminate the agreement if Mendenhall was arrested, charged with, or indicted for a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. This clause was later amended to provide that Hanesbrands could terminate the agreement if, in addition to being charged with or indicted for a crime, Mendenhall:

[Became] involved in any situation or occurrence . . . tending to bring Mendenhall into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult, or offend the majority of the consuming public . . . . [Hanesbrands’] decision on all matters arising under [this section] shall be conclusive.

Mendenhall’s Tweets: Mendenhall is an avid user of Twitter (@R_Mendenhall) and describes himself as a “Conversationalist and Professional Athlete.” [Eric’s note: sadly, the conversation stopped pretty much right after Mendelhall sued Hanes; his last post is from July.] In the wake of President Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s assassination, Mendenhall posted a series of Tweets decrying the joy that people expressed about this incident (a link to the first tweet in the series):


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