Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger Deserves Suspension and Scorn

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 22:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off the field after being injured against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 27-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
David BurnettCorrespondent IApril 16, 2010

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have escaped prosecution, but he should not elude a suspension and public scorn.

Roethlisberger has never made clear exactly what happened the night he apparently took advantage of an intoxicated woman, who may have barely consented to have sex with him—if she consented at all.

Maybe Roethlisberger explained the circumstances and his thinking to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when they met the other day. Maybe he has offered insight to the Steelers. But I doubt it.

He most certainly has not explained his actions publicly. All he’s done to this point is casually “read” a statement the other day in which he offered a vague and less than heartfelt apology and expressed relief that he was not charged.

The problem for Roethlisberger is that while his actions may not rise to the level of criminal behavior, what we do know is that they were no less than crude, predatory, and shameful.

In her statement to police, Roethlisberger’s accuser said the quarterback plied her with shots of alcohol before leading her to the bathroom, where she claimed he had sex with her. Probably because of the drinking she doesn’t remember many of the details—a fact that became a huge problem for the Georgia prosecutor, who knew that without more concrete evidence it would be difficult to convict Roethlisberger.

But while criminal laws may not have technically been broken, there is little doubt that Ben Roethlisberger was most certainly morally wrong.

Obviously he learned very little from a similar incident involving a woman last year. Rape charges were not filed, but a civil case against Roethlisberger is still pending.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said that the Steelers are poised to take disciplinary action against their quarterback but will wait to coordinate the team’s punishment of Roethlisberger with any actions Commissioner Goodell may take.

Certainly the commissioner is frustrated with player behavior, and most likely he had Roethlisberger in mind when he issued a memo last week reminding teams and players what their responsibilities are under the league’s conduct policy.

“NFL and club personnel must do more than simply avoid criminal behavior. We must conduct ourselves in a way that ‘is responsible, that promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful.’

“These incidents affect us all—every investigation, arrest, or other allegation of improper conduct undermines the respect for our league by our fans, lessens the confidence of our business partners and threatens the continued success of our brand.”

If the commissioner punishes Roethlisberger—and he must—it will send a strong message about what kind of personal conduct is expected by the privileged, well-paid human beings who make up the NFL.

Punishment of Roethlisberger will also provide needed evidence that NFL justice can be colorblind.

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