One bad decision can be justified. It was a fluke. It was a mistake. It was an accident. It will not happen again.
Two bad decisions, well, that’s a pattern.
Yesterday, Fred Bright, district attorney for Georgia’s Ocmulgee Judicial District, said that no charges would be filed against Ben Roethlisberger for sexual assault. Investigations into an accusation -- a 20-year-old woman claimed the Steelers quarterback assaulted her in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub -- showed there was not enough proof to bring charges.
This was the second sexual assault accusation made against Roethlisberger in less than a year.
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Following the DA’s announcement, the Steelers quarterback issued a statement to reporters outside the team’s practice facilities.
"I'd like to begin by expressing gratitude for the thorough investigation process in Georgia and the prosecutor's decision not to bring charges. I know, without a doubt, it is the right conclusion. … I am happy to put this behind me and move forward. I am truly sorry for the disappointment and negative attention I have brought to my family, my teammates and coaches, the Rooneys and the NFL."
In a sports environment where athletes and controversies involving sex are becoming routine, the Roethlisberger mess still manages to come off as unbelievably troubling.
On March 5, 2010 Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in the bathroom of the Capital City bar located in Milledgeville, Georgia. The accuser later received treatment at a nearby hospital for head trauma after the alleged attack.
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Roethlisberger claimed the woman had fallen and hit her head in the bathroom of the bar. Authorities initially requested that Roethlisberger submit a DNA test, but later withdrew the request.
With that news, it was clear the case was crumbling. A false accusation of sexual assault is something every athlete fears because the court of public opinion doesn’t need facts to judge. You are deemed guilty until proven innocent and, perhaps, considered guilty regardless. With that in mind, someone who just signed a $102 million contract in 2008 must see he's putting himself in a bad position by going to clubs and buying underage women alcohol. Not seeing this is just inexcusable.
While issuing his statement, even the Georgia DA appeared to take a backhanded swipe at Roethlisberger’s actions.
“We do not prosecute morals, we prosecute crimes.”
Unfortunately for the two-time NFL champion, Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t bound to prosecuting based on crimes. Known for his strict policies on upholding the league’s image, it would not come as a shock to anyone to see a suspension levied on Roethlisberger.
“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime," Goodell has said. "You are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful…Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline."
Further, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steelers owner Art Rooney is also considering taking disciplinary actions against Roethlisberger, who now has a history of questionable judgment.
In July of 2009, the Steelers quarterback faced similar accusations stemming from an incident in Lake Tahoe where a woman claimed he forced himself on her after inviting her up to his room. It later came out through a co-worker’s statement that the accuser bragged about having consensual sex with Roethlisberger. Further, the accuser allegedly claimed that she hoped that Roethlisberger had impregnated her.
Roethlisberger’s track record is not limited to women. In June of 2006 he crashed his motorcycle in mid-Pittsburgh while not wearing a helmet. It later came out that he did not even have a valid driver’s license to ride the bike, but rather an already-expired temporary permit.
So what now?
Is it fair that a young rich man can’t go out to clubs and pick up women like your average twenty-something year old? No. However, that’s the cross Roethlisberger chose to bear when he accepted a $100+ million to lead one of the most recognizable franchises in all of sports.
The Steelers quarterback should be on the probation of all probations with the league right now. An ice so thin that that a dropped football would break it.
Roethlisberger still has his entire career in front of him. His legacy is for him to create. Two accusations of sexual assault aren’t something that people will forget quickly, but with enough time and good deeds, the public will move past it. If, however, Roethlisberger lands into any more trouble, Goodell should take no mercy on him.
Roethlisberger is scheduled to meet with Goodell today.