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Does Big Ben’s Punishment Fit The Crime

Submitted by on April 22, 2010 – 8:43 am13 Comments

By now you’ve heard that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended for six games for violating NFL personal conduct policy. The two-time Super Bowl champion was accused of sexual assault stemming from an incident that occurred at a Georgia nightclub in March. Although the charges have been dropped by his 21-year-old accuser, Roethlisberger still received disciplinary action from the NFL for his role in the event. From what has been gathered from both the accuser and Roethlisberger, the pro bowl quarterback did just about everything but rape the young lady.

This is what liquor, bad judgment and an overactive sex drive have cost Big Ben: $2.8 million of his $102 million deal, endorsements, six games and perhaps the affinity of Pittsburgh’s rabid football fan base.

The question remains whether the punishment fits the crime.

Take this into consideration: This is the first time the NFL has suspended a player under the conduct policy who has not been arrested or charged with a crime. This is also the second time Big Ben has been accused of sexual assault. He is currently being sued for a 2008 incident in Lake Tahoe involving Andrea McNulty. His image as a professional player and his judgment have been in question before following a motorcycle accident in 2006 where Roethlisberger wasn’t wearing a helmet and did not have a valid motorcycle license. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has apparently had enough of Roethlisberger’s antics and decided to play judge, jury and executioner to protect the image of his league and send a message to the rest of the NFL.

Is it too severe or not severe enough? I can see both sides.

Some are questioning the factor of race—if this was happening to Donovan McNabb, would the punishment be the same? By suspending a player simply for his antics, though he isn’t being charged with a crime, we may never know.

There is also the question of star power. If Roethlisberger was a kicker rather than a two-time Super Bowl–winning quarterback, would this be swept under the rug by the league? Does the quarterback’s social status merit a bigger microscope to be placed over his career?

Is it fair the league’s commissioner can hand down a suspension based on an accusation? Perhaps this means if a player is rumored to have been in a fight at a strip club though his involvement in the incident is unclear, Goodell can ultimately decide if the accusations require suspension, making him one powerful judge and jury.

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