Police in DeKalb County, Ga., arrested Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward on a drunken driving charge early Saturday morning.
Ward was released on bond, and Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the Steelers and the Rooney family knew Ward had been arrested, but they had no comment.
The Steelers have always had a reputation for placing a heavy importance on players’ character, which puts them in a dilemma after Ward’s arrest. Pittsburgh traded Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes in the 2010 offseason for posting on Twitter that he was about to “wake and bake”.
While Holmes was in the wrong for admitting to participating in an illegal activity, Ward’s offense is much more serious because driving under the influence of alcohol is far more dangerous than smoking marijuana in his own home. If the Steelers felt it appropriate to trade Holmes for his Twitter comments, they should feel similarly compelled to send Ward packing if found guilty of engaging in a behavior responsible for the deaths of over 10,000 Americans per year.
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While the Steelers are normally known for eliminating players with character concerns, one notable exception took place last offseason when a 20-year-old college student accused quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of raping her. It was the second of three sexual assault allegations against Roethlisberger in one year, and although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sentenced Roethlisberger to a suspension of four games, the same number of games for which Holmes was suspended, the Steelers kept Roethlisberger.
As the details come out regarding Ward’s DUI and the lockout ends, the Steelers will either get rid of him and issue a statement about holding their players to a high standard, or they will keep him and issue a statement about giving players a chance to take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes. Either way, the handling of Roethlisberger and Holmes shows that the decision to keep or release Ward will be based not on morals, but on how crucial of a role the Steelers need him to play in their quest to return to the Super Bowl.
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