PITTSBURGH — Standing at a podium in a cramped media center adjacent to the visiting team's locker room at Heinz Field, Freddie Kitchens had plenty to answer following the Cleveland Browns' 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But in addition to doing his best to explain how his team blew a 10-0 lead to what was ostensibly a third-string quarterback and his offense's inability to properly involve star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns' first-year head coach was also asked about his choice of attire while attending the movies on Friday night.
As has been well documented on social media to this point, Kitchens was pictured wearing a brown and orange t-shirt that read "Pittsburgh started it" two nights before Cleveland's Week 13 rematch with the Steelers. The t-shirt, made by GV Art & Design, was an obvious reference to the brawl between the two teams that occurred at the end of the Browns' 21-7 victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 14 and that ultimately resulted in star defensive end Myles Garrett's season-ending indefinite suspension.
Yet despite the negative reaction many had to his attire, Kitchens wasn't in the mood to give an apology. In fact, he even went as far to say he'd wear it again.
"The t-shirt didn't have anything to do with this," Kitchens said. "I wore a t-shirt. I wore a jacket with it. My daughters wanted me to wear the shirt and I'd wear it again. I put a jacket it on, I covered it up, I took a picture with a fan. It was as simple as that. The t-shirt didn't cause us to give up 40-yard passes. We were ready to play. That's the only fact I need to be concerned about. We were ready to play."
While that may be the case, it didn't take long for many to pile on Kitchens' following the Browns' loss, which dropped the preseason AFC North betting favorites to 5-7, all but ending their postseason hopes. Fox Sports 1's Skip Bayless accused Kitchens of having a "runaway ego," while Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster told reporters, “I’m glad coach [Mike Tomlin] doesn’t do anything like that.”
One local t-shirt shop in Pittsburgh even got in on the fun, releasing its own parody t-shirt in connection to the controversy. Featuring yellow font on a black t-shirt, the shirt reads "Pittsburgh finished it."
Based on the final score and the Browns' place in the standings, it'd be tough to argue otherwise.