CLEVELAND — Ever since Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for his involvement in a fight with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this month, Freddie Kitchens has vowed to stand by his star defensive end.
And on Friday, the Cleveland Browns head coach proved as much.
With his team set to face the Steelers in a highly anticipated rematch, a picture of Kitchens wearing a brown and orange t-shirt that reads "Pittsburgh started it" made the rounds on social media on Friday night. The shirt was created by local apparel manufacturer GV Artwork & Design and has become a popular item in Northeast Ohio in the weeks since the brawl between the Browns and Steelers that ultimately resulted in Garrett's season-ending suspension.
Kitchens' family reportedly bought him the t-shirt for his birthday -- which was Friday -- as a gift. He was spotted at the movies and thought he had covered the t-shirt when he took the picture with a fan. He didn't intend for anybody to see the t-shirt and "understands it's not a good look."
Garrett's suspension came as the result of the Pro Bowl defensive end swinging and striking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet in the closing seconds of the Browns' 21-7 victory on Nov. 14. While it was Garrett's actions that received the most attention, many -- especially in Cleveland -- believe it was the Steelers -- especially Rudolph -- who initiated the altercation.
Kitchens, who has repeatedly stood by Garrett in public statements, apparently agrees with such sentiment.
"Myles is a good person, and we are going to support Myles," Kitchens said earlier this month. "Myles is part of our family. When we break it down at the end of the day, every day they break it down on family, and Myles is part of that family.”
While appealing his indefinite suspension -- which at a minimum will last the remainder of the 2019 season -- Garrett reportedly told the NFL that Rudolph had called him a racial slur before the fight escalated. The league, however, was unable to verify Garrett's claim and upheld his suspension, while only fining Rudolph, who has denied the accusation.
In addition to Garrett's indefinite suspension, Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended one game and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended two games as a result of the fight.
With Pittsburgh sitting at 6-5 and Cleveland's record at 5-6, the two teams will meet at Heinz Field on Sunday in a game that could have major implications for the AFC Wild Card race.