According to ESPN, Garrett said Rudolph used a racial slur before the fight that led to Garrett ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and hitting him in the head with it. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Josina Anderson that Garrett told appeals officer James Thrash about the racial slur during Wednesday’s appeal hearing.
Garrett’s indefinite suspension was upheld, the league announced on Thursday. And NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said later on Thursday that the league “found no such evidence” that Rudolph hurled a racial slur at Garrett.
Rudolph has not been punished for his role in the fight, though he is expected to be fined. Through the Steelers and his agent, Rudolph denied using a racial slur during last Thursday night’s game.
Mason Rudolph ‘vehemently denies’ using racial slur
The Steelers quickly released a statement with Rudolph’s denial.
"Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement. "He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals."
Rudolph’s agents also put out a statement calling Garrett’s claim “reckless and shameful.”
Garrett did not bring up the racial slur after the game. Rudolph said Wednesday he said nothing to provoke Garrett. Thursday, when the news dropped, some of Garrett’s Browns teammates were taken by surprise, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
Rudolph was reportedly scheduled to speak following Steelers practice Thursday, but that changed following news of Garrett’s allegation, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.
Teammate Cam Heyward came out strong in defense of Rudolph.
Garrett has been suspended indefinitely, through at least the rest of this regular season and playoffs. In his appeal he also brought up the precedent of Houston Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith being suspended two preseason games and one regular-season game for swinging a helmet at Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito in 2013. He argued that precedent shows his punishment was too harsh.
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