This is where I get to write about Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who displays incredible poise in the pocket every Sunday yet allegedly can’t keep his hands in his pockets anytime a young woman comes around.
It’s time to stop tiptoeing around what we don’t know and focus on all that we do know. Of course Big Ben is innocent until proven guilty. But that doesn’t change that he now has more sexual assault accusations than playoff appearances in the last two years and it doesn’t mean NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to taking disciplinary action.
When Goodell chose to suspend Pacman Jones for the entire season three years ago, he talked a lot about how it is a privilege to play in the NFL and said “players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis."
In a letter to Jones, he wrote, “Your conduct has brought embarrassment and ridicule upon yourself, your club, and the NFL, and has damaged the reputation of players throughout the league. You have put in jeopardy an otherwise promising NFL career, and have risked both your own safety and the safety of others through your off-field actions. In each of these respects, you have engaged in conduct detrimental to the NFL and failed to live up to the standards expected of NFL players. Taken as a whole, this conduct warrants significant sanction."
Now it’s time for Goodell to be consistent. I’m not someone who necessarily believes the same punishment should apply to everyone every time. If this were Peyton Manning, a guy with an immaculate record off the field, facing similar accusations, then it would be completely okay for the commissioner to wait for more facts to come out before making a decision on whether to take action. But because of Roethlisberger’s previous poor decisions, he has lost the benefit of the doubt.
And don’t think for a second there won’t be plenty of people waiting to pounce on Goodell for suspending a black guy named Pacman even though he had never been convicted of a crime and not taking similar action against Roethlisberger.
Let’s see. Has Roethlisberger put in jeopardy an otherwise promising NFL career? Has he risked his safety and the safety of others? Has he engaged in conduct detrimental to his team and the league? Two sexual assault accusations along with a motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his life and a budding reputation as a guy who likes to party too much suggests the answer is yes.
The trouble with sexual assault allegations is that in the wake of the Duke Lacrosse scandal, no one wants to drag the accused’s name through the mud for fear of a lawsuit and the chance of being disbarred. In Goodell’s case, it’s that he doesn’t want to get it wrong and give the Player’s Association another reason to despise him heading into labor negotiations.
But what we all conveniently tend to forget about the Duke Lacrosse situation is that while those players may have not committed a crime, they also weren’t acting like model citizens that night. At the very least, they verbally abused the stripper who accused them of raping her. And if down the line, if one of them happens to be running a Fortune 500 company and gets accused of sexual misconduct or discrimination, get what’s going to be brought up in court?
Same goes for Roethlisberger, who is at least guilty of putting himself in a bad situation for the second time in less than a year. Goodell gave him a pass the first time he went through this, but there’s no way he can let him go clean this time around.
The commissioner will do whatever he can to protect quarterbacks on the field.
The same shouldn’t apply off of it