Being a professional athlete has to be the best job on the planet. Unless you own your own business, it has to be just about the only career where there are no consequences for your actions. Ask just about any leader in the business world—they will all tell you that no one is irreplaceable. Not so in football, just ask Ben Roethlisberger.
Before I go further, let's get one thing out of the way. My opinion has not been formed or based on any one incident. I am also not trying to express an opinion on his guilt or innocence in the Nevada or Georgia cases. The fact that I had to write that last sentence should give you a clue as to where this article is heading.
What I am going to write about here is a pattern of behavior. Quoting from Roger Goodell's letter suspending Roethlisberger, “Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.” So what is that pattern? In my opinion it is three incidents:
Strike one was the motorcycle crash. Bill Cowher (his boss) specifically asked him to wear a helmet while riding his motorcycle. Instructions which Roethlisberger ignored, and resulted in injuries that made him unavailable to work at his job.
That is insubordination at the places where most of us work. Some of you are probably thinking that what he does on his own time is his business. It is not when you sign a contract as a professional athlete that prohibits you from willingly engaging in activities that may impair or destroy you ability to perform. So in addition to insubordination, Ben most likely breached his contract.
Strikes two and three are the rape and sexual misconduct charges from Nevada and Georgia. On these charges, many of you are probably thinking that anyone can accuse someone, or he has not been convicted of anything. True enough.
However false accusations can carry criminal and civil penalties for the accuser, so it's not something most people would do lightly. Even if Roethlisberger is a saint, he went through this in Nevada and still continued to put himself in compromising situations such as the one in Georgia.
The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business. The Steelers alone were recently estimated to be worth $1.01 billion by Forbes. Where does this value come from? Tickets to games, parking, and concessions are a drop in the bucket.
The money in professional sports is in the television contracts, advertising, corporate sponsorships, and merchandising. The behavior of a player can directly affect these, particularly advertising and merchandising. How many No. 7 jerseys are the Steelers selling these days? If you or I were costing an employer millions of dollars as a direct result of our poor decisions, do you think it would be necessary to show up for work on Monday?
Are these kinds of incidents and lack of consequences (and don't tell me a four-game suspension is a real consequence) specific to Ben Roethlisberger? No, and that is what is wrong with professional sports. Has Ben Roethlisberger had a disproportionate number of these kinds of incidents? I think so, and that is why I agree with Terry Bradshaw.
If I owned the Steelers, Roethlisberger would have been long gone. Sure it would cost me some significant money, and in the short term it would probably cost me some games. The Steelers have almost always made these kinds of tough decisions to preserve their brand's connection to the people of Pittsburgh, but in this case have sold themselves out. I wonder what The Chief would have done if he were around today.
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