The embattled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s much anticipated showdown with the media went exactly as planned. Without question, Roethlisberger went Hollywood. He was smiling and graciously answering the powder puff questions hurled his way.
Ever since Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault last spring, he has benefited from the media's witness protection program. Roethlisberger has yet to face the true wrath of the media.
Roethlisberger was not charged with sexual assault, but that does not mean he did not commit a crime. The judicial system operates much like the media and it is just as white. Deals get cut that favor those who have celebrity status, money and a white complexion. It is not out of the realm of possibility that a deal was cut between the authorities, the NFL and Roethlisberger’s representatives.
Perhaps, if Roethlisberger had a permanent tan, he’d elicit more coverage based on his questionable reputation. If Michael Vick had guided his Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl, you think the media would have granted him a pass like Roethlisberger?
Based on the press coverage—much of it being negative, despite his stellar performance and work off the field—it is fairly safe to assume Vick would be asked consistent questions about his role in the dog fighting fiasco he funded years ago.
Vick has paid his societal debt. He should also be granted time and a half for his willingness to answer the tough questions, despite being exposed to newspaper head lines such as “TOP DOG” and “CON VICK.”
As for Roethlisberger, he has been given the royal treatment from a large segment of the media contingent. He was not convicted in courtroom, but to some degree, Big Ben should have been in the court of media opinion.
I was not at media day, but I suspect it was not any different than other major sporting events I’ve covered in terms of racial balance. The media is as white as the driven snow which now blankets the Midwest.
When 94, 88 and 89 percent of the sports editors, columnists and reporters are white, it becomes quite apparent why Roethlisberger has escaped tough questions regarding his reckless behavior and sexual assault allegations.
In my opinion, Roethlisberger has benefited from his celebrity, race and fame. If I were present at media day, below are seven questions I would have asked:
1. Ben, you’ve been accused of sexual assault at least twice. Rumor has it a third victim was prepared to make the same accusation, but never came forward. True or false?
2. Personally, I believe you’ve received a media pass. Based on the coverage you’ve received compared to the likes of a Tiger Woods or Michael Vick, do you believe you’ve benefited from preferential treatment from the media?
3. In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused and charged with rape. He was later exonerated, but the media coverage was very persistent. Ben, do you think there is a difference between how African American athletes are covered as compared to whites?
4. Ben, teammates and players around the league have expressed a dislike for you. You’ve had brushes with the law and you’ve engaged in reckless behavior. In your own words, describe your past behavior. Were players justified in harboring resentment towards you?
5. In your own words, describe why you feel Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended you under the personal conduct code?
6. Even though you were not convicted in court of any wrong doing, do you feel you have a problem with women or are you a victim of circumstance?
7. Commissioner Goodell stated you took the necessary steps to get your suspension reduced from six games to four. Can talk about the specific measures you took to demonstrate you are a changed man?
The latter questions should have been asked long ago, but they were not. Instead, Roethlisberger was protected by the likes of ESPN. Predictably, they had former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Merill Hoge conduct several bland interviews with Roethlisberger.
It is common knowledge that Roethlisberger and Hoge are friends. Of all the people at ESPN, why didn’t Roethlisberger get interviewed by Mike Tirico or Bob Ley on OTL Weekly?
Better yet—since this situation involves Roethlisberger’s mistreatment of women and alleged sexual assault—why wasn’t he interviewed by a woman at ESPN?
Why wasn’t he interviewed by Hannah Storm, Sage Steele, Lisa Saulter or Colleen Domigues to provide added perspective from a woman’s vantage point?
Such efforts by ESPN would have been too much like covering the story properly.
The shot callers at ESPN have decided to feature an old Roethlisberger commercial as well. It is not surprising. ESPN is the same network that was reluctant to cover Roethlisberger’s first alleged sexual assault in 2008 and was hesitant to cover his most recent one in 2010.
I remember ESPN covering Tiger Woods and camping outside the front of his home like he was a mass murderer. I remember seeing Plaxico Burress being led in handcuffs to an awaiting car from a Manhattan courtroom so repeatedly I dreamed about it.
I remember seeing helicopters flying over Michael Vick’s home. I can remember the barrage of negative press he received before, during and after his release from prison.
What exempts Roethlisberger from facing the music?
I have no problem with persistent media coverage, so long as white athletes are covered in a similar fashion as African American athletes.
Hey, I’m just saying.
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