The hammer is about to fall on Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no other choice but to suspend him. His actions in Georgia are a clear violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, and more importantly, tarnished the image of one of the most-storied franchises in all of sports.
On Monday, Roethlisberger cleared his first legal hurdle but the NFL’s pending decision might be too high of a jump to get over. The Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright ruled that Roethlisberger wouldn’t face criminal charges on the accusation of sexual assault from a 20-year-old college student. He felt the charges couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and in Bright’s own words, “We do not prosecute morals. We prosecute crimes.” But the commissioner does and has.
Goodell has ruled with an iron-fist in trying to clean-up the image of his sport, and punished players in the past without allowing the legal process to run its course. Issuing Roethlisberger a four-game suspension doesn’t admit that a crime was committed that night, but instead, it’s a stern warning that his lifestyle has become a PR nightmare for the league.
We’ll never exactly know what took place inside that bathroom between the coed and the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. We do know that Roethlisberger was barhopping with friends to celebrate his 28th birthday, and ran into the student and her sorority sisters several times throughout the evening. He invited them to the VIP section inside Capital City, a night club in Milledgeville, and bought everyone a round of shots. Later that night, the two were last seen walking into a small bathroom together.
Roethlisberger needs to sit out because of his lack of maturity and for a continuous pattern of bad judgment calls. In 2006, he defied team orders to cease riding his motorcycle without a helmet and nearly killed himself in an accident. Miraculously, Roethlisberger escaped with only a broken jaw and concussion. He is currently being sued by another female who claims she was sexual assaulted by Roethlisberger in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino. No criminal charges were ever filed, but a countersuit for damages was filed by Roethlisberger.
Unfortunately, our society has become a TMZ world where you will be held accountable for your actions. The Steelers themselves must determine the length of Ben’s leash for the upcoming season, as they recently dumped WR Santonio Holmes for reckless behavior. It will be a long road ahead for Roethlisberger to regain the trust and respect of his organization.