No Way Out: Ben Roethlisberger's Days in National Football League are Numbered

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IApril 17, 2010

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks back to the huddle after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Has anyone stopped to think about how the criminal investigation of sexual assault against Ben Roethlisberger will affect the on-going civil trial of sexual assault against Roethlisberger?

A Nevada woman sued Roethlisberger for sexual assault in 2009.

The rules of civil trials are much different than criminal trials.  One significant difference is that a civil trial does not require a unanimous verdict against the defendant, but a mere simple majority (quorum plus one).

With all the documents being released about Roethlisberger relative to the Georgia investigation, it stands to reason that jurors in the civil trial could potentially read those documents.

I've heard some speculation that the documents were released as a power play against Roethlisberger in order to suspend him for more than 2-4 games. 

Releasing such documents could do much worse than that to Roethlisberger it could bias a jury into civilly declaring him to be a rapist.

Where would the NFL go from there?  If the NFL suspends Roethlisberger for the Georgia investigation, the NFL would also have to suspend Roethlisberger if convicted in a civil trial.

At which point, Roethlisberger and the NFL would have a giant egg on its collective face. 

As a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Roethlisberger is amongst a select few icons that represent the brand and identity of the National Football League.

Frankly, I think the only punishment that makes sense is an indefinite suspension until after the civil trial; at least, that is what I would do if I was Commish.

A verdict against Roethlisberger would not only end his career, but would likely incur a public backlash at Commissioner Goodell for not doing more against Roethlisberger.  Right now, Roethlisberger's career is in dire straits, while Goodell's career hinges on how he handles this case.

At this point, a verdict against Roethlisberger in the civil trial seems inevitable.

On the flip side, if the civil trial were to be dismissed because no unbiased jury can be found, then that would raise questions about why these documents about Roethlisberger were released.

It seems to me that this is only the beginning of the end to Roethlisberger's career.  Either, a civil jury will side with the Nevada plaintiff that Roethlisberger is a rapist, or there will be hell to pay for whomever decided to release documents that could easily inflame the senses of jurors.


Don't Push Your Luck

In the past two years, I have railed about arbitrary suspensions against players that had not been convicted of anything, and in some cases, not charged with anything.

Much of the issue had to do with investigations of high-profile players or players that were so frequently investigated that it became their profile. 

The bad PR hurts the brand of the National Football League, regardless of whether the player was responsible for anything, or if he just has a bad habit of being in the wrong place at the right time.

Personally, I think the underlying problem with pro-football players is the unwillingness to seek professional help when their behavioral problems become public.

Sadly, one player did seek help, Odell Thurman. In an article I wrote, one reader said that admitting to membership in Alcoholics Anonymous is grounds for suspension.

Many would like to hide under the rock that, "if I don't get punished by the law, then it didn't happen or it doesn't matter."  When the reality is that, if the person cannot accept "the truth" of what happened, and not just what the law says happened, then he will continue to push his luck.


Conspiracy of Silence

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is obviously caught between a rock and a hard place.

I wasn't against addressing the behavioral issues of players per se, but I did oppose the means by which Commissioner Goodell did so.

I do not believe that Goodell has been malicious in doing so, just too quick to react to knee-jerk public opinion.

I do however take some pride in knowing that I was way ahead of the time when I argued that the suspensions by Commissioner Goodell made little sense. 

Now, the shoe is on the other foot.  Many of the same people whom called me crazy for defending Pacman Jones are now defending Ben Roethlisberger.  Neither player has been charged with felony offenses since entering the league in 2004 (Roethlisberger) and 2005 (Jones). 

Jones at worst was charged with public intoxication and violating probation.  That probation stemmed from a barfight he engaged in during college.  I would submit to you however that, if everyone was held accountable for what they did in college, we'd all be unemployed.

The problem has been "the stink" of bad behavior. 

People railed against the likes of Jones because the public was convinced that NFL players were merely being treated with privilege, and that any normal person would have been charged.

Now that the player is Roethlisberger, few have truly ridiculed him as Jones amongst others were ridiculed.  One site even called Jones the poster child of everything wrong in the NFL and listed quite a list of hearsay.

Yet, some in the media have been quick to question whether it is fair to suspend Roethlisberger for the mere "stink" of bad or criminal behavior.  The same people said nothing when Commissioner Goodell instituted the new disciplinary policies a few years back.

Most of the media defended Goodell, because employers have the right to discipline employees, even for non-criminal behavior.  The other defense was something to the effect of, 'It's about time that the NFL did something.'

I should also add that many bloggers have grossly overstated the reasons for why Jones was suspended.  In one case, a blogger claimed that Jones had been suspended for, "punching a stripper in the face," and that Jones started a melee in a Vegas club.

Firstly, Jones had twice been accused of spitting on a stripper.  Get that right.  Had it been Roethlisberger, I'm sure that the same bloggers would have scoffed that it was just some stripper trying to shake down a pro-athlete for money. 

Because that is exactly what people have said in defense of Roethlisberger against the Nevada woman. 

Clearly, people were willing to believe any accusation against Jones.  In fact, willing to believe accusations that weren't made.  Yet, are unwilling to believe that Roethlisberger is just a privileged athlete surrounded by enablers protecting him from his behavior.

Secondly, you cannot prove whether the "make it rain" thing actually caused the melee.  I have looked into the matter as much as possible, and it was clear to see that many of the details from that night don't add-up. 

That melee could have occurred regardless of Jones, because the whole situation sounded more like a planned robbery and that Jones was just a convenient scapegoat.


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