Ben Roethlisberger & Sexual Assault: WTF?

Yes, the hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners NFL style of football has been proven to affect the brain, but that’s certainly no excuse for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s current situation. A 2-time Super Bowl champion at just 28 years old, Roethlisberger was already under investigation for a sexual assault in Lake Tahoe that allegedly took place a few years ago when a 20-year old Georgia College & State University student accused him of sexually assaulting her at a cowboy bar in Milledgeville, GA last week.

Apparently, Roethlisberger (who owns a home in Milledgeville) was bar-hopping with his entourage, drinking energy-and-rum concoctions and taking photos with locals while his handlers kept the riff-raff away and helped court young women. At some point Roethlisberger had sexual relations with a 20-year old woman in the bathroom – reportedly while others were present and security cameras were rolling; a few hours later the woman contacted the police, who rushed her to the hospital, and accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault. We’ll find out by early next week whether “Big Ben” will be charged with a crime, in which case his nickname might change to “Pig Ben.”

Although it did make Roethlisberger look like a jerk who orders women to his hotel room like pizza, in the aforementioned Tahoe incident that is still under investigation the accuser seemed unstable and out for money. She reportedly bragged to her friends about sleeping with Roethlisberger months after their one-night stand took place, said she’d like to see him again, and then later decided to file a civil suit aimed at getting about $400,000 from the quarterback.

Conversely, police in the Georgia case are interviewing Roethlisberger and collecting a DNA sample from him because he’s under criminal investigation that could put him in jail for anywhere from 3 to 10 years.

Whether or not Roethlisberger – who in 2006 became the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl – raped this young woman is a very serious question that could mean the end of his professional football career when it’s answered. But as someone who grew up in Pittsburgh and has roots there from well before the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers were founded in 1933, what I wanted to know after initial concern for the young woman in Georgia’s well-being was “Ben, what are you thinking?”

Stan Savran, who has been a notable sports radio personality in Pittsburgh for 35 years, wondered on-air a few days ago whether Roethlisberger’s performance next season will be affected by running thoughts about his embarrassing off-the-field issues, and I had to marvel at what a non-issue that is. First of all, thinking apparently isn’t something Roethlisberger does much of. Second, even if he’s not charged with a crime, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is very likely to suspend Roethlisberger for at least a few games next season to make a statement similar to “we will not tolerate players in our league, especially star players, putting themselves in these types of situations.”

[image courtesy of The Sporting News]

Right now Pittsburgh is obviously a tale of two superstars. 22-year old Penguins center Sidney Crosby – already an NHL MVP, scoring champion, Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist – is at the moment one of the most successful, high-profile athletes in the world, yet Crosby is so uninterested in fame that he’s repeatedly turned down offers to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman and The Today Show. Roethlisberger went on Letterman after each of his Super Bowl victories and has even moonlighted as a guest on WWE Raw. Additionally, friends back home have texted me when Roethlisberger showed up at bars where they were drinking, but I’ve never heard of Crosby partying on the South Side with the “yinzers,” or anywhere else, for that matter. Nor has Crosby appeared drunk in dreadful online photos, as Roethlisberger did in recent years, once wearing a t-shirt that read “Drink Like a Champion Today.”

For a man whose current contract is worth over $100 million, Roethlisberger could sure stand to find some new friends and new interests, or at least hang out in classier establishments and pursue real relationships. Maybe “Big Ben” has a serious substance abuse problem that needs to be addressed, but in both of his ongoing sexual assault cases everyone involved has asserted so far that the quarterback had consumed two or three alcoholic beverages at the most, and the man is 6’4”, 240 lbs. Maybe Roethlisberger needs to hire new security guards – he could use a couple of big guys who don’t just make sure he’s not being threatened but can also interject with something along the lines of “uh, Ben? You could afford to buy this bar, even this town. Everyone here knows who you are, so getting busy in the bathroom might not be a great idea. Besides, this girl isn’t even old enough to be in here.” But alas, it seems Roethlisberger is only interested in surrounding himself with “yes men.”

For many decades now, the Steelers – and the city of Pittsburgh – have prided themselves on being the good, blue-collar people’s answer to teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, teams that knowingly sign players who’ve been in serious trouble and probably will keep getting in serious trouble. The Steelers famously did not draft Hall of Fame quarterback, and Pittsburgh native, Dan Marino because of his reported issues with cocaine use at the University of Pittsburgh. And while the Bengals stuck with receiver Chris Henry despite recurring incidents centered around driving while intoxicated, marijuana use, and domestic assault until his untimely death last year, the Steelers released receiver Cedrick Wilson two years ago after a standoff with his girlfriend outside his Pittsburgh home. The team also released emerging running back Bam Morris just a few weeks after he appeared in the 1996 Super Bowl, when he was caught with marijuana in his car. Thus, the Steelers certainly must terminate Roethlisberger’s contract and release him – no matter his importance to the team’s on-field success – if it is determined that he raped either of these women. Otherwise, the proud, storied history of the Steelers – and the hard-working people of Pittsburgh the team is named after – will be dishonored.

A small company in Pittsburgh has already begun selling shirts online that say “Free Ben,” but a more apropos shirt would read “WTF, Ben?” Just a few months after the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIV last year, I was in Maine when the news hit that Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting the hotel worker in Tahoe, and the timing was conspicuous, as my girlfriend and I were also happily preparing for the birth of our first child, who I’ll ostensibly watch Steelers games with someday. Would I be able to cheer, along with our daughter, for my hometown team if their most important player was a convicted sex offender? Hell, no. I’ve already decided that I won’t wear Roethlisberger’s jersey anymore even if he’s not convicted, because the man has a lot of work to do just to prove he isn’t a jackass, let alone a criminal.

8 thoughts on “Ben Roethlisberger & Sexual Assault: WTF?

  1. good article, adam…..i could not agree more….i called the steeler offices yesterday and wrote a letter to Art Rooney, II today….i am extremely offended by Ben’s behavior and as much as i’ve been one of his biggest fans, as i told Mr. Rooney, it is time to let ben go….sad times for steeler nation

  2. it’s like you were reading my mind. he’s proved that he really is as dumb as he looks. to be mentioned in the same company as ray lewis- well, it’s time to go. the steelers were great before this jackass came to them- i am quite sure they will survive without him. i want one of those “wtf, ben” tees if they ever make ’em. i, for one, am sick of these overpaid babies and their rotten behavior.

    1. Well they don’t all behave rotten – look at Hines Ward or Troy Polamalu – but I believe Ben does need to see some serious consequences this time even if his high-priced lawyer proves it was “consensual.”

  3. Your article was good, but the comments from others are ridiculous! Really?? Release Ben? OK, I agree it’s a given that he will be gone if he’s convicted, obviously because he’ll be in JAIL! But what happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? Right now, all he’s guilty of is really bad judgment! It’s so obvious that the first accusation from the Tahoe tramp was extortion. If a woman is violated, would she really wait almost a year before reporting it?? And her credibility has been trashed based on the reports that she bragged about being with Ben, etc. Now this incident seems much more troubling because the girl reported it right away, but again who knows if she was drunk and agreed to sex, then something went wrong and she’s retaliating or if Ben did cross the line. Either way, how about we wait until we know the facts before crucifying him and demanding his release from the Steelers? Geez, Steeler Nation have some faith!!

    1. True, it might not be worth wielding the supposed moral superiority of the Steelers and releasing Ben if he’s not charged with or convicted of anything. Still, no matter what happens as these cases move forward, we’ll all look at Roethlisberger in a different way, as at least somewhat of a cretin and a pervert and a numbskull. And also a hypocrite who began his career with odes to Jesus written on his cleats. In truth, whether he’s guilty of of crime (or two) or not, no one put Roethlisberger in these situations but himself…and as much as we hate them as Steeler fans, we don’t see Manning, Brady, Brees, etc. in this kind of trouble.

  4. While I agree with the posts that extol patience, waiting until all the information is learned, revealed, etc, I am disappointed in Ben’s judgement, or more accurately, lack of it. I don’t expect him to be a saint and certainly I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be 28, single, a very rich man, a successful, professional athlete and celebrity. The temptations and the ability to basically do whatever you want must be intoxicating (no pun intended) and perhaps even overwhelming?!

    There’s no doubt that there’s a lacking of parental influence in Ben’s life. Someone that he would be ashamed to embarrass and disappoint. He’s a man-child and hopefully some sort of family will be able to get to him and reel him in before he ruins his career and perhaps his life?!

    Success so soon and for a person so young can be a real problem when it comes to accountability, maturity, self-control, etc. I would imagine it takes a strong base to try to keep it in perspective and stay grounded. We used to hear about Ben’s devotion to the memory of his mother, his faith, etc. We don’t hear that anymore.

    I live in NY and have watched Derek Jeter grow from boy to man and do an amazing job of staying humble and unspoiled, at least publically. No doubt his parents have a lot to do with that. Ben is enjoying the spoils of his successes, but he doesn’t seem to have any grounding-influence in his life.

    For Ben’s sake I hope he finds it and soon, before it’s too late.

    1. Jeter is a great reference, and I always go back to Sidney Crosby, whose parents have been there for him every step of the way and continue to support and guide him, along with Mario Lemieux, who he’s lived with during the NHL season since his rookie year. Perhaps Roethlisbeger should move in with Art Rooney II.

      All kidding aside, assuming Roethlisberger does not serve jailtime in either of these cases – which he still well might – I hope it’s the wake-up call of a lifetime. Then again, that’s what he called his motorcycle accident four years ago…

  5. Well, at least the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Hotlanta Falcons 15-9 in OT. I wonder how Ben took all of this in and if he’s really into religion and regaining his faith and trust in God? I guess he was home watching the game today with his parents and girlfriend? I heard he had a new girlfriend but she’s not from Pittsburgh. I don’t know her name or anything about her. I guess Time Will Tell!

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