“The Assembly has witnessed over the last weeks how historical truth is established; once an allegation has been repeated a few times, it is no longer an allegation, it is an established fact, even if no evidence has been brought out in order to support it.”
- Dag Hammarskjold
Isn’t that the truth, at least in how it pertains to Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?
For Big Ben, as he’s come to be known by the fans and media, you would imagine that the first allegation would have been enough of an ordeal to have to go through. Sure, the court filings show that the woman involved more than likely entrapped the quarterback with the hopes of a get rich scheme of some sort, but it still left some nasty taste in people’s mouths.
Now comes the news of a new case involving the star quarterback in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a 20-year-old college student is alleging that Roethlisberger assaulted her on Friday, March 5th in the bathroom of a nightclub where Roethlisberger was celebrating his 28th birthday. The difference in this case is that the woman took her case directly to the police, rather than going for civil damages, and she did so immediately after the incident.
So where does that leave Roethlisberger, both in the eyes of the public or in the eyes of the law?
Well, in the eyes of the law, he is now a two-time accused sex offender. You can give a guy the benefit of the doubt after the first case because of the evidence against the accuser and the fact that it was a civil proceeding, but given the latest accusations were taken directly to the police, one has to wonder just how innocent the accused really is.
Then there is his decision to hire on Ed Garland as his attorney in the matter. Garland is the attorney that has represented many troubled sports stars when they’ve crossed the law, including Jamal Lewis in his cocaine distribution trial and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, when he faced charges in a double-homicide in 2000. The one thing that these clients share in common, as well as Dana Heatley and Adam “Pacman” Jones, who were also represented by Garland’s firm, is that all parties involved were guilty to some degree in the crimes they stood trial for, only to plead their charges down.
What does this say for Roethlisberger remains to be seen, but given that the police are already requesting DNA evidence from the quarterback, it already doesn’t look good.
So where does that leave Big Ben in the eyes of the public?
Well, Roethlisberger has done all the right things on the field. He’s played hard, fought through injuries, and he’s delivered two Super Bowls to the Steel City in his short career. Then again, he’s also contributed his share of headlines off the field, spotlighted by the two sexual assault allegations and the memorable motorcycle accident where Roethlisberger was missing both a helmet and a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle license.
While these are just three incidents, they are also three high profile situations that show a severe lack of judgment from a player who serves as both a role model for kids, as well as a leader on the field of play. Half the responsibility of being a quarterback in the NFL is being the marketable figurehead of the team. If the public sees you as a playboy loose cannon who cannot be trusted within the confines of the law, then in one of your primary roles as a player. As I said before, the public may be willing to overlook the first incident, and perhaps even the motorcycle crash, but when there is repeated pounding on the can, eventually its going to look dented, and nobody wants to buy a dented can.
And none of this even considers how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to handle this situation. And let’s face facts, Goodell isn’t exactly one that waits to hear things out either is he?
As the facts unfold, both the law and the court of public opinion will cast their verdicts, but this much is true; you can only do so much to repair an image and part of that is making the right choices. Its obvious the lessons of right or wrong have fallen on deaf ears here.