The Baltimore Ravens and Ray Lewis. Al Davis and John Madden of the Raiders. Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and the Cowboys. Jerry Glanville of the Oilers. The state of Ohio. All justifiably conjure up a special type of venom spewed from Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
However, none of those teams or individuals should remain public enemy No. 1 to any member of the Steelers nation. That notorious distinction is now deservedly held by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who may have ruined the Steelers’ 2010 season by decreeing a 4-6 game suspension upon superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Acting as judge/jury and appellate court for the NFL Code of Conduct Policy that he created and administers without consistency, logic or fairness, “God”-ell made Roethlisberger the first athlete from any of the four major U.S. professional team sport leagues to be suspended by a league when the athlete was not arrested or charged with a crime, or found to have violated a specific rule of that sport (e.g., gambling, using steroids, cheating, etc.).
Goodell will visit the Steelers’ camp in Latrobe on Thursday and I sincerely hope that every Steelers fan in attendance greets the commissioner with loud boos, with some ideally going as far as quoting our former vice president by telling this self-righteous, moronic boob to go f— himself.
Actually, fans of any pro sport team, those who believe in due process, those who believe in innocent until proven guilty or at least until arrested, and those who believe that power in the hand of one almost always leads to unfairness should also boo Goodell every chance they receive.
Yes, I am a Steelers homer, but I would honestly be upset if Goodell issued a similar suspension upon the Steelers’ arch nemesis Ray Lewis, even though Lewis has never been suspended under the NFL Code of Conduct Policy despite once being an accomplice to murder.
Clay Travis, an attorney who doubles as a sports columnist for FanHouse.com, does a better job than I ever could of illuminating many of the problems with Goodell’s Code of Conduct Policy, and Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey noted how inconsistent the commissioner has been in deciding who to punish and for what transgressions.
Roethlisberger is not without blame. He is an arrogant ass, a chauvinistic pig who apparently views women as merely sex objects, and a cheap-tipping, rude prick, all evident by this “Big Ben” character assassination by Sports Illustrated. He also tends to get fat, drunk and stupid each offseason, and we all know that is no way to go through life.
The summer of 2010 marked the third offseason where Roethlisberger’s immature antics have caused a distraction. First, he idiotically and selfishly rode a motorcycle without a helmet and was nearly killed after leading the Steelers to his first Super Bowl title in 2005. He followed that up by playing lousy for much of a 2006 season, during which his play probably warranted being benched on multiple occasions.
Now, he has had two consecutive offseasons in which two different women in different states both made allegations that Roethlisberger raped them. If he did in either case, I wish Roethlisberger ill-will while hoping he rots in a jail cell for a long time. It should be noted that roughly 60% of rapes/sexual assaults in this country go unreported and many that are still do not result in a conviction. Those are disturbing and disgusting stats.
However, both of the allegations against Roethlisberger were investigated by police, neither generated an arrest or charges, and evidence and witness statements strongly point to Roethlisberger’s innocence of these specific allegations.
No one believes the initial accuser in Nevada. She bragged to her friends about having sex with Roethlisberger (after the alleged rape, which was their only sexual encounter), said she wanted to have his baby, and planned to visit to Pittsburgh to hook up with Ben again. Again, all of this occurred after the two had sex in Las Vegas and her own e-mails to friends discredited her story.
Incidentally, she did not go public with her allegations until after Roethlisberger ignored her attempts to contact him and she has since brought a civil lawsuit against the quarterback in pursuit of monetary compensation.
As he told police immediately, which was the only comment he made to investigators before his entourage wisely told him to keep quiet, Roethlisberger did not have intercourse with the accuser from Georgia.
That position was strongly supported by the contradictions in the one of her three statements in which she claimed Roethlisberger raped her (not sexual assault). She said they did not have sex in another statement and was unsure in a third, probably due to her having a blood alcohol level above .20 on the evening of the encounter. The legal limit for a DUI is .08.
The manner in which she claimed Roethlisberger raped her — while she was sitting on a toilet seat in that seedy Milledgeville bar and he was not on bottom — further discredits her claim, since a standard toilet seat is 15 inches off the ground and the Steelers’ quarterback is 6-foot-5.
In other words, the immutable laws of physics exonerate Roethlisberger from her story. Think about that from a physiological standpoint and tell me if it is possible to have intercourse in that scenario. The two did have a sexual encounter in the bathroom (which by itself is sleazy and could have violated the law, although no charges were filed), but she alleged forcible rape and not sexual assault in her statement the next morning.
Initially, though, only details from the accuser’s third statement were released through media via her friends, because Roethlisberger and his entourage were legally instructed not to talk to media and the police had not issued any details from the investigation publicly. Then, while announcing he would not prosecute Roethlisberger, a media grandstanding, publicity-seeking, Baldwin County district attorney used that opportunity to attack the quarterback’s character and judgment.
Nonetheless, despite the absence of an arrest after the investigation, Goodell acted upon the sensationalistic media attention given to these allegations, suspending Roethlisberger for 4-6 games to open the 2010 season and banning him from the Steelers’ practice facility during that period.
Notice how Goodell always provides a game range for these suspensions. Why? Well, he decides who gets suspended and for how long, any appeals go directly back to him in his utterly absurd system, and issuing suspensions with ranges makes it far less likely that the punished or spineless NFLPA will challenge Goodell’s authority. After all, he can add games or other punishment as he desires.
It should be noted that all six of the previous players suspended under Goodell’s Code of Conduct Policy prior to Roethlisberger had been arrested and charged with criminal acts, most of which were violent in nature. In contrast, Roethlisberger has never been arrested for anything in his life.
In his statement announcing the suspension, Goodell noted that Roethlisberger was not arrested or charged with any crime in Georgia, but that he did bring unwanted publicity and cast the NFL in a negative light.
In fact, the only specific act Goodell noted was that Roethlisberger bought the 20-year-old accuser from Georgia an alcoholic beverage. As my Steelers buddy Brian hypocritically mocked: “We all know it is a patron’s responsibility to check IDs of those in bars and not that of the bar owner, bartender, or doorman.” Incidentally, this same woman had a fake ID taken up in the same bar a week earlier before returning to the same establishment to drink again.
What is even more frustrating is that Goodell has not suspended any players since Roethlisberger under his Code of Conduct Policy. Not Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who was recently arrested for allegedly assaulting an individual in bar, which followed his two DUIs over a two-month period two years ago.
Punching someone out in a bar and getting arrested for it? Okay in Goodell’s book. Multiple DUIs? Evidently, no problem per our commissioner, because Benson has never been suspended by the NFL under his personal Code of Conduct Policy.
Arguably the most negative light shone upon the NFL in recent years was when former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick plead out in federal court in admitting guilt to multiple felonies for running a dog fighting ring. Vick was found to have murdered multiple animals and his entourage allegedly stole neighborhood, family dogs and adopted homeless shelter pets both to use as bait for their trained fighting dogs.
Those heinous acts from Vick resulted in a suspension from Goodell that was eventually dropped to two games. And no, Vick’s hopefully “very hard” year in prison did not count toward the suspension. A federal conviction of running a dogfighting ring = 2 games. Baseless accusations of sexual assault = 4-6 games. Got that?
Vick was instructed by Goodell to be on his best behavior. Vick, now with the Eagles, was recently involved in a heated argument with a former dog-fighting friend who ended up being shot later that same evening at a birthday party for Vick.
Now, Vick was not in a physical altercation and did not order a shooting. Therefore, he did not deserve to be suspended for any games for this incident, and he was not. But how could he not based on the standards of justice that Goodell set with the Roethlisberger ruling?
After all, Vick was told he needed to be on his best behavior after being reinstated by Goodell and not have any contact with his dog-fighting entourage, something he clearly broke. Moreover, news of a convicted felon/dog killer being loosely connected to a shooting certainly shines a negative light on the NFL, right Roger?
The hypocrisy of these inconsistencies has barely been reported by our ESPN-dominated sport media, which never misses a chance to kiss the NFL’s ass when they take a break from anointing LeBron James as the greatest athlete in the history of the galaxy or reporting live on Brett Favre’s off-season tractor driving from Podunk Outhouse, Mississippi. Any news organization that actually refers to Chris Berman and Stu Scott as reporters deserves to be repeatedly mocked and never trusted.
Adam Schefter, who actually is a top-flight NFL beat reporter for ESPN, said that Goodell’s “hands were tied” and that he could not punish Vick, because his actions did not result in an arrest.
No, Adam, that common-sense, longtime standard for actions by a sport league commissioner was broken with the Roethlisberger suspension. Now, any time a player’s negative actions or even just baseless accusations by anyone toward that athlete are reported by media, they should also note that Roethlisberger was suspended for 4-6 games despite not being arrested for any criminal acts.
That is the set standard, except Goodell seemingly only made that the standard for Roethlisberger and his edict may keep the Steelers out of the playoffs. Anyone else has to be arrested and charged with a violent crime, and many players who fall under both those criteria are still not victim to Goodell’s punishment.
And this is why any time Goodell encounters a Steelers fan, they should note these hypocritical inconsistencies or at least boo the bastard out of town. Hopefully that will happen Thursday in Latrobe.