NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has shown little tolerance for players who don’t walk the line like good little clones. So I’m going to assume he will treat the NFL’s latest “suspected” felon the same way as he has others. Otherwise, he’s setting himself up for a mini race riot.
Ben Roethlisberger is innocent of sexual assault. Or, I should say, the district attorney in Milledgeville announced he won’t bring charges because he doesn’t believe he can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. (Often in cases like this, the alleged victim also was drinking so it makes things difficult to prove. And sometimes, the alleged victim also gets an envelope full of cash to suddenly not cooperate with police. I’m not saying that’s what happened. I’m just saying that happens.)
Back to Goodell. He has suspended players in the past who were arrested but not convicted of crimes. Most notable on the list: Adam “Pacman” Jones and
Chris Henry. You’ll recall that he also told Michael Vick not to report to Falcons training camp, even while Vick was denying guilt and long before he pled to dog-fighting charges.
Jones, Henry and Vick all are African American. Roethlisberger is white.
I understand the arguments on both sides of the suspension debate.
♦ For suspension: The NFL is like any other employer. The “conduct detrimental to the league” excuse works for any company that wishes to fire or suspend an employee who is prone to excessive knuckleheadedness.
♦ Against suspension: If a man isn’t convicted of a crime, the NFL has no right to punish him.
The problem here is that Goodell already has set precedent. He can’t go back now. There is enough circumstantial evidence of Roethlisberger excessively imbibing. There are now at least two cases where a woman has brought sex assault allegations against him (he faces a civil suit stemming from an alleged incident in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 2008).
As a Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Roethlisberger is making both the NFL and one of its centerpiece franchises look bad. For Goodell, this should be am easy call.
When Goodell suspended Jones and Henry in 2007, he sent letters to the two players that read in part: “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.”
Is there any difference in this case?