Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been in the headlines during the offseason for all the wrong reasons.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the two-time Super Bowl champion after he was accused of sexual assault for the second time in less than a year and less than four years after his near-fatal motorcycle accident.
Sports Illustrated put Roethlisberger on the cover of its May 10 issue and told a lurid tale of narcissistic entitlement leading to abusive behavior by “Big Ben” and some of his posse. Quoting anonymous sources, the piece raised the question whether the star’s behavior was going to cost the team some portion of their fanatical fan base.
In what Sports Illustrated termed his “tepid” eight-sentence apology, Roethlisberger made the point that he had not been arrested-a statement that did not impress SI Senior Writer Jack McCallum.
If he had been, he would have had plenty of company.
In Pro and Cons: Criminals Who Play in the NFL, investigative writer Jeff Benedict points out that 21 percent, or more than 1 in 5, NFL players had been arrested for serious crimes ranging from fraud to homicide.
Benedict and co-author Don Yaeger describe the combination of one of football’s major requirements, being willing to inflict pain on others, with the coddling and permissive treatment star players often get from their adolescence leads to illegal, violent and destructive results.
Seen in that light, Roethlisberger’s actions change from being an extreme example worthy of condemnation and consequence to the proverbial tip of the iceberg that Goodell and others in the league hierarchy are not addressing sufficiently.
What do you think? Should the Steelers give Big Ben the boot? Is the suspension warranted, even though he was not charged? What should the NFL do about the other players’ legal woes?