Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Report: Roethlisberger Suspended 4-6 Games, With Conditions

The controversy surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's alleged bathroom behavior in Georgia a while back has come to a head.

The star will be suspended four to six games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Roethlisberger's behavior has been the source of much talk in NFL circles in recent weeks. FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw, a decorated and popular former Pittsburgh quarterback, called "Big Ben" out for, well, basically being a hard-headed jackass.

While it was initially unclear if the league would take action, it began to come into focus after a meeting between Roethlisberger and Goodell last week. The commish acknowledged publicly that Roethlisberger -- in his view -- had violated the NFL's personal conduct policy. He came to this finding despite the fact that Roethlisberger wasn't charged in this incident, and nothing has come of allegations of a sexual assault in Nevada, either.

The finding of Goodell -- for better or worse -- was that Roethlisberger's behavior put him in bad situations, and he was responsible for the fact he was in a position to have these accusations placed against him.

This adds more teeth to the NFL's personal conduct policy, something colleague Clay Travis wrote on last week.

Effectively the league would be punishing a player for the violation of an amorphous and arbitrary morals element to the personal conduct policy. And while you or I can agree or disagree on whether the allegations against Roethlisberger -- given that he was never arrested or charged -- are serious enough to merit a suspension, hardly anyone would be able to determine where the league draws the line on what is moral under the personal conduct policy and what isn't.

Clay went on to point out that this policy might not even be legal.

The policy also hasn't been challenged because, from an individual player perspective, taking the punishment without running to court probably makes sense.


Because the legal system might well take longer to render a verdict in your favor than it will take to simply serve your suspension. If you run to court there's an appearance that you're avoiding taking responsibility for your own actions. So you aren't incentivized to challenge the system and anger the man, Goodell, and the league, the NFL, who controls your ability to reenter gainful employment.

But, trust me, the legality of the personal conduct policy is tenuous at best. Especially because the NFL unilaterally adopted the personal conduct policy without the NFLPA's approval and outside the protective sphere of the collective bargaining agreement.

That makes the NFLPA's failure to attack the personal conduct policy a complete failure of the league's union and a reflection of the fear the player's union feels in allying itself with the weakest, and most easily condemned, members of its union.

Mortensen tweeted that he doesn't expect Roethlisberger to initiate an appeal of his suspension from the player's union. He added that Big Ben didn't invite the union to his hearing with Goodell last week.

If the player doesn't initiate the appeal, the union can do nothing but allow the player to serve his punishment.

It sounds like Roethlisberger is taking this like a man, which he should be (sort of) applauded for. He could have protested and made this a very painful process. Instead, for whatever reason, he is going to try to move on and -- hopefully -- grow up.

For those protesting, remember that there is a lot of uncertainty. We don't know the facts of the case. We don't know what the commissioner found out from Roethlisberger during their meeting. We don't know what all the circumstances of the decision not to charge him with a crime.

The commissioner likely knows more than we do, and he knows more than he will ever lay out publicly.

Reality is that the policy will be questioned, but it's got more punch to it now than it ever did before.

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