sportstapas
A little dishing on sports

Big Ben Needs to Pay the Toll

I tried so hard not to post on Ben Roethlisberger.  I figured there was really nothing for me to add to the hysterical discourse that always takes hold whenever something happens to or with a famous person.  I was prepared to leave it alone and let Pittsburgh fans and their outrage stand as the last word on this topic.  I was.  Really.  And then I read Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback.

King published a letter from Roethlisberger’s attorney, David Cornwell, that was designed explain why professional athletes who establish themselves as massive tools believe they can continue to be massive tools without repercussions.  Okay, I’ll accept that this was arguably not the primary purpose of the letter, but that has to be at least a secondary goal, right?  How else do you explain this:

While Ben’s sexual activities may offend some, anyone would have been hard pressed to predict that Ben’s actions would have resulted in such vicious and false allegations. Ben bears exclusive responsibility for the consequences of his choices, but that does not mean that these particular consequences were foreseeable. Whether it is in the privacy of a hotel room or in the more risky environment of a semi-public restroom, a false allegation of rape simply is not within the zone of the foreseeable consequences of consensual sex.

Ok, so let me get this straight: it was not foreseeable that a famous 28 year old man might encounter some trouble after going to a college bar, getting hammered on booze, plying young, possibly underage women with booze, and then retreating with one of those women into a restroom where the two engaged in sexual relations?  On what planet is trouble not foreseeable on those facts?!  Note, I have not and am not suggesting that Roethlisberger did anything illegal on the night in question, though under the facts most favorable to him, he walked right up to the line of illegality, didn’t he?

  1. He bought booze for women who may have been underage.
  2. He may have directed his bodyguards to physically intimidate two women to keep them away from his friend
  3. He may have physically prevented a woman from leaving the bathroom of the bar
  4. He may have had forcible sexual contact with a woman

Again, maybe nothing Roethlisberger did that night was illegal, but to suggest that his troubles were not foreseeable is asinine at best.  A big, tall, rich, famous guy walking around college bars getting drunk and preying on women basically screams, “I really want to be victimized tonight.”  Maybe Roethlisberger should stay away from the zone of foreseeable consequences and play a little man-to-man for a while.

My other favorite part of the letter was Cornwell’s suggestion that the bathroom in which the sexual contact took place was “semi-public.”  I mean, I guess it was semi-public in the sense that only patrons of the establishment were welcome to use it.  So if Ben had engaged in sex on the bar that would have been a semi-public encounter as well.  Sex on his front lawn?  Semi-public.  Sex against a goalpost at Heinz Field during a game?  Semi-public!

Cornwell, in looking out for the best interest of not just Roethlisberger the football player, but Roethlisberger the person, also added the following classic:

I cannot fathom how a suspension or any other form of traditional discipline will help Ben make a better choice the next time he decides to have consensual sex. The difficulty that Ben had in articulating a distinction between the risks associated with private and semi-public sex is the product of the undeniable similarity between the Reno and Georgia accusations, even though one event occurred in the privacy of Ben’s hotel room and the other in a semi-public bathroom.

As you consider your options, I hope you will focus on an approach that establishes a direct nexus between your response and the issue to which it responds. Whether I am considering these options as Ben’s advocate or as the person who has had the privilege of engaging in frank discussions with you unburdened by our professional affiliations, I am unable to discern a link between a suspension and any useful lesson or message that would tend to alter Ben’s conduct in the future.

Well, of course.  How can anyone expect punishment of Ben to adequately communicate the wrongness of his behavior, when the fact that he’s supposedly an intelligent adult who has graduated from college and risen to the top of a difficult profession have obviously taught him nothing.  Ben struggles articulating distinctions between stuff.  So I hope that young woman was very clear in what she wanted out of her encounter with him.  We wouldn’t want Ben articulating parts of his body in places where they were unwelcome, would we?

I agree with Cornwell about one thing.  I am also unable to discern a link between a suspension and any useful lesson or message that would tend to alter Ben’s conduct in the future.  A boot stuck up his ass for 15-20 years, though?  I’ll bet that would alter the hell out of his conduct.

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