Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers Should Be Suspended Indefinitely

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IApril 13, 2010


That is what I believe. I would rather not self-moderate the issue.

Surely, followers of my articles would think that I am just some flippant writer trying to pick an argument, which is false. As I said in the first line, I just avoid self-moderation when I write an opinion, because I would rather leave that to the reader.

First, I have long been perplexed by accusations of using, "the race card," when I have merely questioned the facts and inconsistencies of decisions and opinions that have disproportionately affected black athletes.

Rarely have I directly said, "You are a racist." I have strongly suggested it once or twice, though. To me, when someone accuses me of using, "the race card"—that is their conscious screaming at him or her, yet they want to blame me for what they know about themselves.

Thus, when you accuse me of using "the race card" that to me is a Freudian admission that you are racially biased. Frankly, I am not the one who has made this about race. I am just the messenger.


Slap on the Wrist

My surmised opinion of Roethlisberger though has been that the guy is a dirtbag that needs to get his act together, and until then, he doesn't belong in the NFL, regardless of Super Bowls.

My opinion has been that a two to four game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would be a slap on the wrist.

If Goodell thinks a two game suspension will send a message to NFL players to change their behavior then he's dreaming. He is living in fantasy land. 

A two game suspension would merely add to the thrill that players want when they engage in reckless behavior, with the threat of being caught.

If Goodell wants Roethlisberger to change I say suspend him indefinitely with a mandatory evaluation of mental health. 

Keep in mind however that an indefinite suspension could range anywhere from zero games to 16 or into the 2011 season - the point however is that Roethlisberger should undergo mandatory mental health help before he can reenter the league.

Simply put, the length of the suspension would be in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and no one else.

If Roger Goodell wants a Super Bowl victory to be a sign of maturity, then suspend Roethlisberger indefinitely.  As it is, winning the Super Bowl clearly doesn't require maturity, and if anything, it creates immaturity.

Roethlisberger may have eluded the "rush" this time, but if he can't be honest with himself, then it's only a matter of time before Roethlisberger will become an even bigger PR nightmare for a league that wants to grow its brand internationally in markets where people view Americans as hillbillies and rednecks.

Roethlisberger would only enable that stereotype.  Regardless of whether that perception is fair, if Goodell wants the NFL to appeal to Europeans, the last thing he should want to present is the image of a surly redneck.

The only reasons that Roethlisberger will not face charges is that the accuser has backed down from the charges, in part because she was too drunk to be a credible witness, the security tapes "mysteriously" disappeared, and the DNA evidence was insufficient.

If this had been another player, I bet we would be hearing all kinds of jokes about insufficiency.


Slippery Slope

My biggest problem with the suspensions by Roger Goodell is that there is no oversight.  Goodell could just say, "Pick a number between one and 10."

That is obviously hyperbole. The point however is that there are no clear criteria as to how many games a player can be suspended for on grounds of behavioral problems.

A two game suspension would tell the rest of the league, "Hey, if you want to assault a girl, just get her too drunk to remember." (If only Darrell Russell had known to use alcohol instead of roofies, he may have averted indictment).

That was not hyperbole.

Many in the sports media have tried to downplay any comparisons to other players suspended by the NFL, such as Pacman Jones and Odell Thurman. I should add that Vikings defensive end Jared Allen had received a two game suspension for three DUIs with two in the same year.

There is only one DUI between Jones and Thurman. Thurman entered AA as a result.  One reader once commented that admission of membership in AA was grounds for suspension.

One person in the sports media even said that Roethlisberger has been accused of less serious crimes than Pacman Jones has. Apparently, he thinks that accusations of spitting on a stripper are worse than accusations of sexual assault (can you hear my profanity?).

Thus, a two game suspension of Roethlisberger would raise some red flags here. The only white players suspended by the NFL both received the same punishment. It would also tell me that this is not about protecting quarterbacks as special, but about protecting white players as special.


You Can't Know What You Don't Know

I have also read enough from sports writers to know that sports writers have kept much of Roethlisberger's behavioral problems under wraps until now, whereas, the same writers were more than happy to slime players like Jones and Thurman. 

Thus, the reason that NFL fans can't cognitively compare Jones and Thurman to Roethlisberger is that the sports media has enabled a facade of Roethlisberger, while gleefully running others through the mud.

One caller to Headline News would even call in to call Roethlisberger "squeaky clean," when the reality is far from that.

Roethlisberger has long been disliked by his teammates, so much so, that the team actually thought they would be better off in the Super Bowl without him. Roethlisberger has also been described as surly and rude towards the public. 

In white guy world, the descriptions of Roethlisberger's persona would be translated affectionately as, "Oh, he's his own man. He's a rogue. He's a rebel. He's a bad boy. Etc, etc."

When guys like Jones and Thurman act in the same way, "Ehh, he's just some (expletive deleted)."

I know that, because recently, Pete Prisco of has admitted to it. This is an important admission, after Prisco had previously written that Roethlisberger was being smeared. 

Click here to read the story that details many things that, until now, I had not known.


Pattern of Behavior: Would you want this guy at Disney Land?

This incident is not the only one against Roethlisberger. There is still a civil trial for sexual assault pending against Roethlisberger from last summer. 

If the issue is about behavior and not necessarily about convictions, then why should it matter that the case is civil and not criminal?

I should also add Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident in 2006 as more evidence of his reckless behavior. 

I say that because Roethlisberger severely damaged his head while not wearing a helmet. Then Steelers coach Bill Cowher had lectured Roethlisberger about not wearing a helmet.

Instead of churlish cries of derision that Roethlisberger's recalcitrance that could have killed him, was tantamount to insubordination; fans have tried to ignore it all together.

It is clear to me that Roethlisberger is recklessly defiant, will continue acting recklessly, and will continue sullying the image of the NFL unless Goodell sends down a punishment with real teeth.  After all, we're supposed to expect more from the quarterback.


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