Friday, June 11, 2010
How Much Time Does Big Ben Need To Be Forgiven?
Ben Roethlisberger is back in camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers and has been talking about his sexual assault accusations to reporters recently. He has taken NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's preferred path by choosing his words carefully in his journey of seeking contrition from observers.
While Roethlisberger has six regular season games to continue his quest while he serves a league imposed personal conduct suspension, his accuser has now gone viral on the Internet on what happened that evening of the purported attack. Big Ben's lawyers may be scrambling for a response, yet may choose the silent route for awhile.
This is not the first time a high profile athlete has been accused of a sexual crime. Kobe Bryant was also accused of the same charges in 2003, and ultimately admitted to having a sexual encounter with his victim as his pregnant wife sat at home. Prosecutors ultimately dropped charges, yet Bryant settled a civil action out of court with his accuser.
The fallout that ensued was Bryant being dropped as a corporate spokesman by several companies. As the years passed by, he was rehired as a spokesman, garnered more sponsorships, and was pushed by the NBA as one of its prevalent images. While his winning championships while maintaining a crime free lifestyle helped his transgressions to be forgotten, his current days hardly ever mention his sexual assault in a society bereft with a short term memory. He was named Player of the Decade by several sportswriters as well.
Unlike Bryant, Roethlisberger is single without a pregnant mate. Though his charges are highly immoral, it is not on the same level of crude behavior as Bryant. As he attempts to rebuild him image, people recall a seemingly reckless lifestyle of his that included a horrific motorcycle accident in 2006 and another sexual assault accusation in 2008. That accusation has been met with skepticism, because the woman has had contradicting statements that even ranged to admitting the sexual liaison was consensual even though she has filed a civil suit in court against Roethlisberger seeking $440,000.
Unlike the previous sexual assault, the recent one has documented evidence of a laceration and slight bleeding from the victims genital area. A rape kit showed no evidence, though the victim told a doctor "A boy kind of raped me." That, is coupled by a recent video dispersed throughout the media showing the victim telling how she allowed Roethlisberger to have sex with her so he would not hurt her anymore.
This has helped Big Ben be terminated from a five year partnership with a company that produced a beef jerky named after him. He has also encountered ridicule from comics and entertainers. Rapper Eminem has two songs recently released in where he basically calls Roethlisberger a rapist.
He has also been placed in a debate where some feel the white skinned Roethlisberger has gotten a pass from the media as opposed to darker skinned athletes facing these same charges in past years. The fire storm even expanded to ex-Steelers claiming Big Ben is a selfish egomaniac aloof from his teammates and not being well respected nor liked in the locker room.
Winning seems to cure a lot of ills, and this is something Roethlisberger does well. The 28-year old quarterback has won two Super Bowls in his five seasons, as well as having won the 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and appearing in a Pro Bowl. If he adheres to Goodell's warning, his six game suspension could possibly be reduced to four games.
With Pittsburgh facing the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, and Baltimore Ravens in the first four weeks, his behavior is extremely important to a team that could realistically be 1-3 when he returns if Goodell lifts the suspension early. Their fifth week is a bye week, then they face the possibly improved Cleveland Browns on the sixth week. The only road games they have in this time frame are against the Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which could help the Steelers.
Though the Steelers and their fans are hopeful the team can overcome the suspension of their star quarterback and have a successful season where the franchise can procure their seventh championship, they also hope Roethlisberger will finally stay out of trouble and discontinue shining a negative light on their team.
Time will tell if Big Ben will be forgiven like some athletes have been in the past, though moments like this has led to the downfall of others careers and lives. Questions of where his legacy will finally stand is over a decade away from being answered, but it is very possible fans will forget much like they have forgotten the past travails of those before him.