Thursday, April 22, 2010

Big But Not Bright Ben

Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended for six games without pay (which may be reduced to four games with good behavior) by the NFL. This means his behavior was publicly embarrassing and immoral enough to warrant action against someone who no doubt has a morality clause in his lucrative contract. It means a professional football player need not be convicted of a crime to be punished by his employer for giving the reputation conscious league a black eye. But it has not been proven that Roethlisberger is the devil, or even guilty as initially accused though never officially charged. He’s guilty of bad judgment (aka dumb-assery) for sure though, along with arrested maturity development.

Before you compare Ben's case to that of others (Santonio Holmes, Donte Stallworth, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Rae Carruth, Ray Lewis, Adam “Pacman” Jones, O.J. Simpson, Jack the Ripper, etc.), be sure cases are comparable. Guilty courtroom verdicts for equal level crimes are comparable to each other. Bad behavior accusations settled out of court are comparable to bad behavior accusations settled out of court. Apples aren't oranges aren't pears.

Sexual assault isn't dog fighting isn't DUI isn't unlicensed gun in club isn't marijuana possession isn't... And an accusation, especially one not even followed up on, isn't a guilty verdict.

That said, I've no doubt that Ben did something morally/legally wrong and is now paying price for it. Enough of a price? Too much? Just right?

@jemelehill wrote “If Ben R were blk some of y'all would be hollering abt his suspension being an injustice, no charges, etc. #yeahisaidit Let's not be hypocritical. When blk athletes commit crimes we turn them into martyrs. When it's white athletes, we become Law & Order.”

Couldn’t agree with her more. Racism will always be a peeve of mine regardless of which direction it’s flowing. Not everything requires viewing through the prism of race, and I'm confident this is not how the NFL commissioner considered his course of action. Calling out what you choose to see in a situation is poor replacement for objective reasoning. Think with your brain, not your biases.

Jason Whitlock - @WhitlockJason - recently raised the ire of some (for example, that of @insanityreport ) basically for suggesting in this article that sometimes men (particularly celebrities) are falsely accused of rape/sex assault. This caused him to be accused of endorsing rape, helping to foster a “rape culture”. He wrote: “Some young women use alcohol as an excuse to be sexually aggressive at fraternity houses and nightclubs and then quickly concoct a story of sexual assault when confronted by their disapproving peers” and “Statements made by drunken sorority girls are not facts. Statements made by sober sorority girls about an evening spent bar-hopping and drinking are not facts.”

Isn’t it sexist to suggest that women are always the victims in power struggles with men and never the duplicitous ones? Yes, some men do bad things. Equally true, some women do bad things too. Whitlock didn’t write that Roethlisberger definitely did nothing wrong, but merely stated that nothing was proven and the testimony of the accusers could be seen as suspect considering the environment. Drunken college students tend not to make the best witnesses or have the best memories. This does not mean that Roethlisberger is innocent either. It means that there are probably four sides to the story – his version, her version, blurry eyewitness accounts, and the truth.

I support mandatory castration for proven rapists, especially if beyond a first offense. But when an innocent man is accused his reputation is wrongly castrated.

Rape is a demonic crime. Falsely accusing someone of rape isn't quite as bad, but it's pretty F'd up.

System needs to be changed so if a woman is raped, she isn't made to feel that she's the one on trial.

System needs to be changed so women don't change their mind and decide not to bring charges because trial will prolong their horrid ordeal.

And system needs to be changed to seriously punish those proven to be making false accusations. Not fair to accused, not fair to real rape victims.

I have no idea what Ben Roethlisberger did or didn't do. Lots of fishiness around this case, hard to know what to believe. I understand those who condemn him. I get those who say no guilt was proven.

Roethlisberger will spend the rest of his life considered guilty by many regardless of what he did or didn't do. That's how it goes.

Whatever he did, it clearly was enough to warrant punishment even if not the legal system variety. And that’s what happened, without a word of protest from Ben, merely the statement that he broke no law but accepted his suspension nonetheless. His bank account and reputation have been damaged by his poor judgment. Many eyes that once looked at him with adulation will now do so with disgust. If he deserves to pay a heavier price than this, if he deserves to lose his liberty, then the accuser must press forward in trying to prove her case in a court of law. Instead she refused to cooperate with the police and Roethlisberger was never even arrested. That has to be telling information, even if you choose to translate what hasn’t actually been stated.

If this piece makes me sound like a Big Ben defender, which could not be further from the truth, so be it. Some issues are so sensitive that it's difficult to react to them with reason rather than emotion. My goal is not to say what is popular and will be met with cheers & nods of approval. My goal is to say what is true, even if unpopular. Sometimes this puts you on the road less traveled. Not the worst place you can be.
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A couple more takes I've found (thanks Twitter) on this incendiary topic: by @KeithBalmer

1 comment:

  1. I have gone back and forth on this. This seems pretty severe for accusations--no prosecution-- and I would expect players' union to really fight this. Any one with a vendetta could easily harm an athlete's reputation,pocket book and career. Young, wealthy, athletic men will keep socializing with the opposite sex. This does not set a good precedent.