If you have been paying attention to the sports headlines in the last few days, then you probably know that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in trouble again. Roethlisberger, who has experienced his fair share of issues off the football field, is being accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student at a nightclub in Georgia.
This week’s alleged incident marks the second time “Big Ben” has found himself mired in a sexual scandal. The first time came when a Lake Tahoe woman accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room. However, as time went on, more details emerged in the case, including an account from the woman’s co-worker stating that she had been bragging about having consensual sex with the Steelers quarterback. Roethlisberger ended up emerging from the case as more of a targeted victim, but damage had already been done to his reputation.
With new allegations against him, Roethlisberger’s situation begs a few questions. Is someone attempting to take advantage of his reputation for their own financial gain? Does he consistently put himself in bad social situations? Is Roethlisberger really just a scumbag and not what we see on TV?
All of these questions really boil down to one big issue…is Roethlisberger a criminal or is he a victim?
In this day and age, the sports entertainment business has more money and more power than ever. This principle translates not only to the athletes getting paid astronomical amounts of money, but also to the athletes reaching the top of the A-list celebrity totem pole. So when celebrities go out in public, they don’t just get recognized for their fame, they also get recognized for their money.
Take Roethlisberger. A 2-time Super Bowl Champ, who still is just 28 years old. Oh yeah…and his financials? Well, he signed a contract extension in 2008 worth $102 million over 8 years.
So you want to tell me he isn’t a marked man when he goes out into a social setting? Do you mean to tell me their isn’t some floozy out there like Andrea McNulty (women from Tahoe) that is ready to use her body to try to woo some young, rich celebrity athlete?
Didn’t think so.
Whether this is the case with the newest incident involving Big Ben in Georgia, I don’t know. But before you make assumptions, it’s important to break down the underlying possibilities.
Now, maybe Roethlisberger is guilty this time around. Maybe he took his celebrity entitlement too far…it’s certainly possible.
What isn’t on Roethlisberger’s side is his past. Fair or not, he has been accused of sexual assault before. He also suffered serious injuries in 2006 from a motorcyle accident in which he wasn’t wearing his helmet. The dropped charges in Tahoe and the motorcyle accident in Pittsburgh don’t make him a criminal, but they do count for something. Roethlisberger clearly likes to party, he clearly likes to live on the edge, and I’m willing to bet that most of his teammates will concede that.
Roethlisberger has now hired a high-profile Atlanta defense lawyer, who has also represented Ray Lewis and T.I. in the past. You have to admit…this doesn’t look good.
And that’s just the thing here. No matter what happened in that nightclub V.I.P. room, Roethlisberger’s reputation is at an all-time low. Hell, Big Ben could have been playing solitaire with a bunch of girls in that room, but all people hear is the allegations in the media. The fact is that people in this country go on what they hear. In everyone’s eyes, Roethlisberger is as good as a convicted rapist. They don’t care about the pressure associated with being a pro athlete. They don’t want to imagine the danger of the entire country knowing how many million dollars you make.
Guilty or not, Ben Roethlisberger has a long road ahead to build his reputation back up. I’m sure that if he had a choice today, he’d much rather have a clean reputation than wear two Super Bowl rings on his finger.
So now do you want to be a pro athlete?