PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Earlier today Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey tweeted an apology for a photo of he and his brother Mike wearing “Free Hernandez” hats that became public over the weekend:
“I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions,” the message ends.
The Pouncey brothers were University of Florida teammates of ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has been charged with the murder of Boston semipro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty.
The Steelers have not publicly commented on the matter, though, according to multiple reports, the team will speak to Pouncey about it.
This isn’t the first difficulty Pouncey has encountered on or off the field since entering the NFL, nor is it the first time in recent memory the Steelers have had a controversial First Amendment issue on their hands.
Although he was named to the All-Pro Team for the third time in as many seasons, Pouncey has missed 30% of the team’s offensive snaps since an ankle injury at the end of his rookie season forced him to miss Super Bowl XLV. He also incurred some backlash from fans for openly supporting ex-Steeler running back Chris Rainey–who has had legal problems of his own–and for promoting his own rap song shortly after the Steelers’ most recent playoff game, a January 2012 upset loss in Denver.
In 2011 another ex-Steeler running back, Rashard Mendenhall, drew negative attention for using Twitter to disparage conventional wisdom about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This prompted team president Art Rooney II to issue a press release divorcing the organization from Mendenhall’s opinions, and professing support of the U.S. military.