Goodell had no choice but to suspend Roethlisberger (UPDATED)

Whatever Ben Roethlisberger said from his notes the other day didn't satisfy Roger Goodell. (AP photo)

Any NFL player should know by now that there are two judicial systems: One is the  set of laws that govern this country. The other has to do with the perceptions and whims of Roger Goodell.

Goodell suspended Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. There’s a possibility of the suspension being reduced to four games if a review before the season indicates he has made sufficient progress in his behavior.

That judgment, of course, will be made by Goodell.

The announcement came on the league’s website. It included the stipulation that Roethlisberger “must undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals.” (Excerpts of Goodell’s letter to Roethlisberger is below.)

In Goodell’s view, it doesn’t matter that Roethlisberger has been twice accused but never charged with sexual assault. A long pattern of negative behavior — some of which was detailed in the GBI’s investigation into the rape claims by a 20-year-old college student in Milledgeville –  left the commissioner with no choice.

That’s right: no choice.

Goodell long ago established that the bar on the NFL’s personal conduct policy is set high. He runs the league the way the guy on the corner runs his bagel shop. Significant circumstantial evidence of  public  lewd behavior would get anybody fired in their profession. Why should it be different for an NFL quarterback?

Roethlisberger’s behavior in Milledgeville was publicly criticized by district attorney Fred Bright, even while Bright admitted he couldn’t prove the allegations in a courtroom. But the near-600 page investigative report spoke volumes. That’s enough for Goodell.

As he said in his letter to Roethlisberger, “… the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing … alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The Personal Conduct Policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that ‘undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.’ By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard.”

A defense attorney would have a field day with this. But it’s not a defense attorney’s league. Roethlisberger damaged the Pittsburgh Steelers in the same way Michael Vick damaged the Falcons and Adam “Pacman” Jones damaged the Tennessee Titans. When NFL franchises are damaged, so is the league. Goodell lives to protect the shield.

Goodell set the standard with Vick, Jones and Cincinnati’s Chris Henry. In each case, the players were either suspended or told to stay away from training camp before the legal system ran its course. He couldn’t back off now.

When he told Vick not to report to training camp in the summer of 2007 — while Vick was still denying the felony dog-fighting allegations — Goodell released a statement, reading: “While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy.” (Vick ultimately was suspended for up to the first six games of last season but that was reduced to two games.)

As I wrote the other day, to not suspend Roethlisberger would’ve furthered a race debate among some fans and some of the league’s African American players who believe Goodell is harder on blacks than whites. By suspending the two-time, Super-Bowl-winning white quarterback from arguably the league’s premier franchise, that argument is over.

So, too, should any question about the standard Goodell is trying to set.

EXCERPTS OF GOODELL’S LETTER TO ROETHLISBERGER

“The Personal Conduct Policy makes clear that I may impose discipline ‘even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime’ as, for example, where the conduct ‘imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person. As the District Attorney concluded, the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing [or facilitating the purchase of] alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The Personal Conduct Policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that ‘undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.’ By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard.

“I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

“Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.

“I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.

“In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.”

Recent posts on Roethlisberger

With no Roethlisberger, Falcons catch break at Pittsburgh

Countdown’s trouble spots: Milledgeville and Remerton?

If Roethlisberger skates, Goodell will face a race debate

Roethlisberger hires Garland, attorney to troubled sports stars

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

242 comments Add your comment

Coons Fan

April 21st, 2010
11:42 am

Coons Fan

April 21st, 2010
11:43 am

Now the Rooneys get to make their statement. Think Goodell is being more harsh than them? Doubt it. Big Ben’s days as a Steeler may be numbered.

sad brotha

April 21st, 2010
11:46 am

His pattern of behavior is ugly. Why isn’t he on the Atlanta Police Force?

GC

April 21st, 2010
11:47 am

Way to stick to your guns Goodell. I like this decision.

G'Vegas Dawg

April 21st, 2010
11:50 am

THIRD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

J

April 21st, 2010
11:51 am

Any non famous person would be in jail for rape. This guy is rediculous!

Peadawg

April 21st, 2010
11:51 am

But…but…he wasn’t convicted!

There, I got it out of the way for the idiots that will say it later. Go call Goodell!! Go Falcons!

Bout time-Way to go Goodell

April 21st, 2010
11:53 am

Well put Schultz. NFL athletes should be held to the same standard as the rest of us. I’m only sad that Big Dumb Ben won’t be on the field so Abraham can rip his head off.

UglyOldDog

April 21st, 2010
11:54 am

What a joke…this nut has some serious issues with women….I’d like to see a least a half a season and take his lost salary and donate it to victims of sexual abuse…please lord, keep this idiot away from my daughter!

GIVE ME A BREAK

April 21st, 2010
11:54 am

Ben is a coward and a punk.

JIMV

April 21st, 2010
11:55 am

Abusive people rarely reform. I don’t expect Little Ben to be around much longer.

asheville dawg

April 21st, 2010
11:56 am

I agree. If Big Ben is not suspended, it would start racial divide. Besides isn’t this just the white “pacman”.

mike machi

April 21st, 2010
11:56 am

Tomlins 0 tolerance policy.. better late than never, what a joke coach. Its still your job as a coach to maintain SOME order……Cowher did a
decent job getting the most out of his players and facilitating with
management.Think about the head cases: Barry Foster, Bam Morris, Plex, Porter, Reed, Harrison, Holmes and Ben…..You see exactly whats
happened last season and this off season when a bad coach follows a good one, at some point the wheels fall off. Marvel Smith, he had some great stuff to say on Ben, Cowher and Tomlin.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1300130787&ref=profile#!/group.php?gid=234214468082&ref=mf

Ben Barfhisburger

April 21st, 2010
11:57 am

We already knew he was a dumba$$ when he was riding round town on his motorcycle without a helmet and hit a dang tree.

Think we could get Heyward to play linebacker at the Dome after the Braves’ season?

Ben ate a Furberger

April 21st, 2010
11:58 am

I’ve lost all respect for the guy.

washedup

April 21st, 2010
11:58 am

Goodell is much harder on season ticket holders than any of these players – making us pay full price for meaningless pre-season games. He’s the one that should be suspended!

Richt should take notes

April 21st, 2010
11:58 am

Glad to see Mark Richt is exercising some discipline on his team this year. What brought about this change?

Jeff Schultz

April 21st, 2010
12:00 pm

Coons fan — There’s a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today that the Steelers have been fielding trade offers for Roethlisberger, and they’re listening (even while not pursuing yet).

Jeff Schultz

April 21st, 2010
12:01 pm

Bout Time — Thanks. I agree.

Jeff Schultz

April 21st, 2010
12:02 pm

Give Me A Break — Yeah, “coward” and “punk” sums it up well.

ATLienCowboyFan

April 21st, 2010
12:02 pm

Maybe the your Falcons can start 1-0.

findthemorons

April 21st, 2010
12:02 pm

Not enough. He is a serial idiot – moron.

michaelprick

April 21st, 2010
12:02 pm

Ben Roethlisberger is nothing more than a low class piece of trash. He’s not going to learn from this.

GIVEMEABREAK

April 21st, 2010
12:03 pm

He wasn’t convicted. But you guys think you know what really happened that night, so you’re just gonna convict him yourselves. Where is the report? What does it say? If the info actually incriminated Ben, he’d be OUT, not suspended. If he was guilty, he’d be OUT, not suspended.

[...] ban 4-6 gamesESPNBen Roethlisberger: Report: Steelers wants a top-10 pick for BenRotoworld.comAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Rotowireall 72 news [...]

Pale Horse

April 21st, 2010
12:03 pm

Either the Rooneys are who they say they are, or Ben Roethlisberger is a Steeler. One or the other. Can’t have it both ways.

Ben is a RAPIST!!! He has no morals. If you read his original statement to the policeman that got forced out he claimed he saw her in the VIP room and told her she had to leave because she was too drunk to be there. After being lawyered up he admitted to having sexual contact with her. The owner of the club and some of Ben’s party said they saw joyner walk the girl back the hallway and place her on the stool. The girl is not without fault, she should have contolled the amount she drank, but no is still no.

The state of Georgia’s monthlong investigation into a rape accusation leveled against Ben Roethlisberger uncovered an allegation by a second woman that the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback forced himself upon her. The incident allegedly occurred during a party at Roethlisberger’s house in central Georgia. ADD THE NEVADA WOMAN AND YOU GOT A BIG PROBLEM TO SAY THE LEAST.

According to one, Nicole Biancofiore, the alleged victim “did not want to report the incident to a random police officer,” the case file shows.
Ms. Biancofiore called a friend, Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Tapley, to ask for advice. He told her to report to an officer downtown.
“Biancofiore also stated that [the woman] did not want to report it because she did not want people to know about the incident and was embarrassed by what had happened.”

I am a huge Steelers fan, and I am very disappointed. How many more women is gonna have to be drunk with — and it be the womans fault that he is letting things get out of hand.
So what do we have here a serial rapist?

NFL — if Mike Vick can get suspended for 2 years – wow — for Dog Fighting.

What is been going to get for inappropriately – (damn near raping)touching women. we are at a body count of 4 WOMEN so FAR.

Perhaps he does need to sit home for a year or two.

Praveen``

April 21st, 2010
12:05 pm

I personally think any college woman who repeatedly blatantly violates the underage drinking policy not just for a little fun but to get repeatedly smashed so badly she can’t remember anything deserves no benefit of the doubt. She changed her story. But then she remembers everything the next day? I dont think so. She wears a DFT tag (look it up). I have no sympathy for her.

Having said that, Ben did act like a sleazeball and a moron(why take such chances with another lawsuit hanging in the air?). I think he deserves 2-4 games. 6 games would be unprecedentent for someone not charaged with a crime regardless of the pattern of behavior.

Ben needs to turn his life around . he can look to Brady as an example who has a lot of fun without such ugly accusations. Ben also needs to lose 20 pounds and not show up to preseason like a fat out of shape pig eating the Steelers generous 100M.

Because of Ben, Holmes got traded in a hurry for practically a useless pick. Ben owes a lot to the Steelers.

Dawgbone

April 21st, 2010
12:05 pm

Glad to see Goodell sticking to his guns…good job!

Peadawg

April 21st, 2010
12:08 pm

GIVEMEABREAK, PacMan was convicted either but he was suspended an entire year. Did you complain about that one?

Ted M

April 21st, 2010
12:09 pm

He should have been suspended for the whole year.

Mike

April 21st, 2010
12:11 pm

What odds would you put on the NFL letting me ordering a Steelers jersey with “Rapistberger” on it?

Sports Junkie

April 21st, 2010
12:15 pm

Hey Schultz, why is that you and the Mike Lupicas of the sports world have to play the race card in your sports reporting? Give it a rest. Vick was convicted in a court of law. So what if he’s black. Big Ben was only accused of a misdeed. But you and other sports writers can’t help but convict the guy in the court of public opinion. I don’t know what really happened that night in Milledgeville and neither do you. The report could have been 2000 pages. So what? The fact remains the DA concluded he couldn’t obtain a conviction in a court of law. A 600-page file is a moot point. Never mind the victim in question provided different versions of her story. Sure, Ben may have some behavioral issues to work out, but so does Tiger. Yet I saw him strolling along the pristine fairways of Augusta National and displaying his well-know trash mouth after hitting errant shots. I suppose the PGA believes this is a positive role model to foist upon younger viewers. Yet Goodell, who is so obsessed with the league’s image, apparently believes suspending Big Ben for a few games is going to white wash the incident and make a statement to other players. Sure it will.

Kelvin

April 21st, 2010
12:17 pm

I notice no one has called him a thug. ummmmm! I’m just saying…

Ted M

April 21st, 2010
12:19 pm

serial rapist is a worse term then thug.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

April 21st, 2010
12:21 pm

Someone with his money and fame can get all the, well, you know, he wants from consenting adults his own age without this creepy, underage thing. He’s a lout. Kick him out.

Reid Adair

April 21st, 2010
12:23 pm

I would agree that Ben Roethlisberger’s days in Pittsburgh are numbered. They’ve shown a tendency in the recent past (including Santonio Holmes just a few weeks ago) to get rid of bad apples.

Warnin

April 21st, 2010
12:24 pm

We don’t need this kind of “Professional” in Georgia. If he has property here, he might want to think about selling it. As for his “body guards” (pimps), why aren’t charges being brought against them. The public doesn’t have to put up with this crap. The citizens of Pittsburgh may think he’s cute, but it wasn’t one of your daughters, this time or the time before. If you want this POS jock running wild in Pittsburgh then you are welcome to him. Just don’t send him south any more.

waynester

April 21st, 2010
12:32 pm

Mike
Now that was funny!
“Rapistberger” has about as much trade value right now as that dog-killer did right after finally getting caught…They’re both THUGS dadgummit the amount of melanin in their skin doesn’t matter– it’s the darkness in their souls that’s the problem! Keep the “Falcons Filter” set on 11, Mr.Blank…..

mike

April 21st, 2010
12:33 pm

I would have a hard time rooting for my quarterback if he was a rapist. Just sayin.

What a misguided Vick fan would say:

April 21st, 2010
12:33 pm

How is killin dogz worse then raping a woman?

Flo-Ri-Duh!

April 21st, 2010
12:35 pm

Conspiracy theory: Falcons placed the girl at the scene, which just happened to be in Georgia, knowing that #1) “Big Ben” would be there #2) “Big Ben” has a history of getting drunk and getting stupid with women #3) “Big Ben” would get suspended and the Falcons would get to play the Steelers without him…… brilliant.

tbrookside

April 21st, 2010
12:39 pm

Roethlisberger wasn’t actually charged with sexual assault, but you know what?

All the witness statements agree that he repeatedly exposed his genitals and waved them at other patrons of the club he was in. So while the rape can’t be proven, it’s basically beyond dispute that Ben is a pervert, a drunk, and a lout.

You know what? THAT ALONE should get the guy a suspension. He’s embarrassing the league.

DC Dirty Bird

April 21st, 2010
12:42 pm

Kelvin: No one will. That is reserved for “other” people. SportsJunkie: Have you not read the parallels between Goodells words when he suspended Pacman, Chris Henry, Vick, and others? The NFL has not hitched its conduct policy to the court system. Therefore, you should not expect that it will allow the court system to dictate when a violation of the conduct policy has occurred. You must recognize that the NFL sells a brand comprised of individual players. Thus, individuals must be held accountable to the standard of the brand. The PGA sells individuals. Therefore, its conduct policy (if it exists) would only discourage behavior that affected the play or marketability of individuals on the PGA tour.

RonDawg

April 21st, 2010
12:43 pm

If, in the report the girl said “no”, then it is rape. That’s pretty much cut and dried. Just because she drank does not excuse the a$$hole from forcing himself on her. If there was nothing to hide, why would his “bodyguards” not allow her friends to get to her and possibly take her out of the situation? The friends knew she was drunk, the “bodyguards” knew she was drunk, the a$$hole knew she was drunk. What did he think was going to happen? That she wouldn’t remember? That it was a privilege to be pawed by an NFL player?

Take the identities out of the report, let it go on anonymous male/female descriptions, and see if we get the same outcome.

He should’ve gotten more than 6 games. Vick got 2 years for dogs? There’s quite a difference when you add a human life. People do stupid things. But her drinking, in no way, excuses him.

gatorboy62

April 21st, 2010
12:44 pm

He should be banned for at least a year. Raping, contributing to a minor , etc. He is a thug, and should be kicked out of the league, but what is expected. The Ravin have a murderer on thier roster, the Eagles a convicted felon, and the league continues to reward these thugs. It makes me sick.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 21st, 2010
12:52 pm

It’s true he wasn’t convicted, although with so much smoke around him, one would have to think there’s some flames, too. The real question is when will these guys ever learn? If you want to stay out of trouble in this world, the best way is to stay out of places and situations, where trouble occurs. You can’t teach common sense, I suppose.

Dan

April 21st, 2010
12:54 pm

Seriously sports junkie? you can’t be defending him. Not being charged or being found not guilty doesn’t mean you didn’t do anything, and while it is proper that he isn’t jailed, based on unreasonable doubt, it is absolutely proper to be dragged through the court of public opinion, just like public opinion handed him accolades before he… ahem showed his butt

Sports Junkie

April 21st, 2010
12:55 pm

Thug? That’s reserved for the NBA. And calling him the “R” word? Only if convicted in a court of law, which by the way, he has not been. Sure something happened. Only an idiot would conclude otherwise. But again, inconsistent stories from the victim and a thick file full of information that apparently lacks credible evidence to convict the guy doesn’t make him “guilty.” Yes, Ben probably needs to take a sabbatical when it comes to women, focus on opposing defensive schemes and deflating his ego by several notches. But for all of you who are calling for his season-long suspension, why? You want to suspend the guy for something he was accused of, but not convicted for. Remember the Duke lacrosse team saga a few years back? Anyone? The head coach “resigned” before the case had run its course. And what did we find out? This chick lied about the entire episode. And the results? A team lost its opportunity to compete for an entire season and a coach lost his job – all based on a lie. Big Ben certainly needs to tone it down a bit. And if Pitt believes there is another quarterback in the waiting that can take them to the playoffs, they’re dreaming. Ben may have crossed over the code of conduct policy line, and I suppose the Rooney’s have a right to take whatever action they deem appropriate because it’s their team. One last point: if there is so much evidence against Ben, why isn’t the girl’s family raising hell about it to the DA and media? I have a daughter and if the amount of “evidence” that has been reported in the media does in fact exists and a DA told me he wasn’t going forward, I’d be all over him like white on rice.

You guessed it

April 21st, 2010
12:57 pm

For no other reason, he should be suspended for his Neanderthal approach to women: dropping his pants and saying “You can do what you want”. LOL.

Jeff Schultz

April 21st, 2010
1:07 pm

Sports Junkie — you miss the point: Vick was effectively suspended when he was told to stay away from training camp by Goodell and that was before he plead guilty. At the time, he still claimed innocence.