First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on Ben Roethlisberger and league sanctions

Apr 14, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

If nothing else, at least Tuesday’s meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell prompted Ben Roethlisberger to cut that god-awful mullet of his. The clean-shaven Steelers QB met with Goodell yesterday in New York, presumably to discuss whether Goodell and/or the Steelers will impose some sort of punishment on Big Ben for his continuing inability to stay out of trouble.

Roethlisberger, of course, was never arrested in the latest mess in Georgia, nor will he be charged. But criminal charges are not a necessary precursor for NFL punishment, and the commissioner has a lot of discretion in the matter. But should he? Should the league be able to punish a player who hasn’t run afoul of the legal system, or should “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” be the guiding principle? Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Hello, I'm not a football expert but when I watch Ben R., I don't think he's that great of a QB. In fact, I read today how much he is earning and all I can think is how ridiculous. Then, this mess where he can't quit getting into bad situations and assaulting women proves that he may need a huge time out at rehab. Thanks.

Do you think we'll hear soon that he's a sex addict? That seems to be the excuse of the new millenium.

Morning, everyone. Let's get started!

Hi Tracee, Thanks for doing these chats. I can't help but wonder if the Steelers have a double standard. "Big" Ben has been accused of two assaults with this most recent one having what seems to be more credibility behind it and whether or not it was "assault" it seems to be along those lines.

So, you have that on one hand, and Holmes on another. While allegedly throwing a bottle/glass at a woman is a big deal and getting busted smoking dope is a problem (not to me, I don't care), it seems like these are lesser offenses than assaulting women.

I know the veracity behind some of these charges are questionable, but it seems that is the case for both players. Why kick Holmes to the curb and take care of Ben? And the team suspending him for a couple games doesn't cut it! Thanks

This is the issue the Steelers and the NFL are both grappling with. I think the Steelers want to mete out whatever punishment they have planned and move on, but they have to wait for the league to act. (Does that remind anyone else of Gilbert, the Wizards and the NBA?)

The Steelers are painted into a corner here in a lot of ways. Holmes' had a bit more of a background than Roethlisberger, but if you dump your black receiver and slap your white quarterback on the wrist, that's not going to play well in your locker room.

And if the league isn't careful, it could face the same problem in all the locker rooms. Everyone's watching this very carefully. Goodell needs to make a decision quickly.

Should Big Ben be suspended by the league? No. Most NFL players are kids in adult bodies. If he hasn't run afoul of the law then leave him alone. If the Steelers can't live with it, trade him.

I remember a QB leaving RFK after a game with a cigar in his mouth & a cold beer between his legs. Remember Sonny? He would be arrested for that now but it made him what he was & we loved him. Leave Ben alone...

And there's the other side of the argument. Roethlisberger hasn't broken the law, as far as law enforcement officials are concerned. Shouldn't NFL players have due process, same as the rest of us? It's a conundrum. But the league has already handed out penalties to players before they've been convicted (Michael Vick had been charged, but had not gone to trial, as I recall). So they've set the standard.

I don't understand how someone could be suspended (or considered for suspension in this case) by the league but not have been convicted of any crime? Regardless of anyone's feelings about Big Ben isn't this kinda ridiculous. I guess the NFL believes guitly whether guilty ot innocent? I mean can the NFL really say that its players are no longer allowed to go to clubs or talk to girls? Why doesn't the NFL just require its players to be under house arrest for the duration of their career...

The league believes its players should be held to a HIGHER standard of conduct. They come right out and say it.

Honestly, though, he's 28 years old and he's scamming on college girls. Don't you find that a little skanky? Oh, and underage college girls.

When I was in college, a certain professional player of whom I was a tremendous fan hung out in the campus bars with a teammate all the time. Even in college, I thought that was kind of icky. He was single but he was older. If a non-athlete guy of his age had been in The Wheel hitting on young women, the young women would have laughed in their faces.

This has happened twice to the guy in less than a year. Something's going on.

Tracee, thanks for the chat. What do you think of Terry Bradshaw's comments about Roethlisberger?

(The League: Bradshaw says he has a poor relationship with Roethlisberger)

I thought it was really interesting. Bradshaw told Roethlisberger to give up the motorcyle, apparently before the accident. Then came the accident and there went the relationship. Love him or hate him on the Fox show, Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings. Four. If I were a Steelers QB, I'd give him more respect. If I were any QB, I'd give him more respect.

I'm totally fed up with Big Ben - I want to slap the back of his head so hard that his eyeballs pop out. I say keep him out of 1-2 games. If he doesn't clean up his act start getting Dixon ready to take over and trade Ben.

When you go from beloved figure to alienating fans, you've done something wrong. Skins fans would love to have had the success the Steelers have had with Ben, but this isn't the only email I've gotten from a Steelers fan who's fed up.

Now that he's cut that awful hair, he might feel that b-slap.

Is this one of those "The Steelers Were So Mad at PacBen that They Traded Santonio Holmes" situations? Kind of like how the NCAA seems to go after small fish because big fish are too important to their organization. After all, getting rid of a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback would be a big deal.

This is the question, isn't it? That's why the NFL needs to act quickly. Because the speculation is that if you're a white star in the league, you are held to a different standard. True or not, that's the impression the league is leaving us with.

Since when did this become the Pittsburgh Post? Who in DC cares what the Steelers do?

Oh, come on. We talk local topics almost every day. I hardly think one 30-minute chat makes us the Pittsburgh Post. Lighten up!

And if you think this isn't being discussed by players from all over the league, including the Skins, think again.

We have due process under the law, but not necessarily in employment contracts. You can be fired without due process, unless you have some kind of contractual stipulation otherwise.

The NFL and the Steelers can do what the want to Ben because of the personal conduct clauses in pro players contracts. If the Steelers want to continue to have a stellar reputation regarding conduct, they have to have a substantial penalty for Ben, at least 6 games suspension, in my opinion.

Yes, of course they CAN do it. Should they?

I personally don't have a problem with a personal conduct policy. The players know it's there. (If they don't, they haven't been paying attention.)

You say six games. That's on the high side of predictions I've seen but not unreasonable.

They're adults in pain-wracked bodies. Life is short. Who wouldn't want to party after being smacked around?

Oh, come on. Who says they can't party? But a 28-year-old partying with college kids says "pathetic" to me. What, is that the only bar in Georgia? I think not.

I partied when I was in college, and I partied in my 20s, but not in the same places, and not in the same ways.

Besides, he's not in trouble for partying; he's in trouble because apparently when he parties he does something that makes women believe they have been assaulted.

Employers have the right to regulate behavior that may reflect poorly on the organization. I work in higher education and my employer has rules about who I may date (no students) and how I can declare support for political candidates (on my own time, on my front lawn, but not on campus or in the classroom).

These policies are spelled out in the employee handbook. The NFL has similar rules and they are built into the standard player contract. So while Ben has the legal right to hit on drunk 20-year-olds (although not to buy them booze where the drinking age is 21), the NFL and/or the Steelers also have the contractual right to discipline him for doing so.

There is a pattern of behavior here and he should be disciplined. And if he can't change his ways then he should be dumped. All of that aside, the potential Santonio double standard also provides a good reason to discipline or trade Ben, for the locker-room-harmony reasons Tracee describes.

Good points. The Post has similar rules.

Ben can come and QB for the Skins! Donovan can hold the clipboard.

Ha! NOW it's a local chat.

Tracee- These girls are not underage in terms of dating/relationships - they are underage in terms of DRINKING. That is a huge difference in saying a girl is "underage." A girl who is 20 is at least 18, right?

Yes, they were underage to be drinking, and he bought them drinks. As I understand it, that part of the incident is not under dispute. It's not his job to card them, I understand. But you know how to avoid buying drinks for underage girls? STAY OUT OF COLLEGE BARS.

Really, am I the only that finds that creepy?

Doesn't every professional league counsel its players at the start of every year about getting involved in compromising situations? I don't know what Roethlisberger did or didn't do with these women, but it sure seems to me that he has a complete lack of common sense. Goodell should suspend him for being a bonehead,

He doesn't strike me as the sharpest knife in the drawer. Yes, the league counsels the players on everything.

I try not to make everything abour race, but don't you think the League has to come down harder than they probably normally would on Roethlisberger? You've had black players suspended without convictions. The hammer of the League being dropped on an ethnicity that has to total at least 70 percent just to protect "The Shield."

Yet, you have one of the golden boys, participating in behavior two years in a row (that we know about) that casts a shadow over the League and his team (which just happens to be one of the more storied Franchises in the League).

I personally don't want to see a one or two game suspension. I think the suspension has to START at at least 4 games...and go from there. Now I know realistically, 4 games is not going to happen...but it should. What do you think?

I, too, don't like to make everything about race, but this is, like it or not. You are correct.

I think two is too few. I think six will never happen. I think four will be the result. And if Goodell is smart -- and he is -- I think we'll find out really soon. Plus they'll want to get this announcement made before Draft Week (fast becoming a national holiday).

Tracee, thanks for the chats. What would be a fair punishment for Roethlisberger? Given that this is his second run in with sexual assault, I'd lay the hammer down. I'd suspend him at least two games (four would send a loud warning shot).

But the real concern here is this isn't about Steelers football tradition and image of a league. Aren't those ancillary issues to the real problem? This is about treatment of women which is a horrifying and big problem.

I think four games will be the result. Yes, the league has long worried about players' treatment of women and domestic violence issues. One of the first projects I edited at the Post when I arrived in a covered wagon all those years ago concerned domestic violence cases involving NFL players. The league has tried hard to deal with it but there will always be knuckleheads. And Lord knows it's still a problem outside of the NFL as well.

So, the REAL reason for this topic is so Tracee can say "icky" a lot?

Did I say icky a lot? Sorry. How about "grody"? Does anyone say grody anymore? Is that how you spell "grody"? Yes, according to Urban Dictionary, it is.

Sorry for the overuse of icky. Wasn't intentional.

For a sport that has both male and female fans, shouldn't the NFL be concerned about how Big Ben looks to both sexes? PFT comments indicate that Ben's nothing more than a rapist - calling him Rapistberger. Women, I believe, would not think highly of someone who allegedly takes advantage of a intoxicated young ladies.

The kid needs to straighten up. The only way it seems to get his attention is to suspend him for 2 - 4 games. And if he doesn't knock it off...ban him for life.

Yes, I think the NFL has a large number of female fans, and women will tend to think that what Ben did was icky, er, grody, er, unseemly. The NFL is about growth growth growth, and it seemingly has all the men in America as fans already. So women are the next big market, and as I've said, I think a lot are already on board. All the leagues need to take these issues seriously, for female fans and for women in general.

Okay, I've run over. Tomorrow's topic will be the Pittsburgh Penguins. No, the Pirates. JUST KIDDING. It's a mystery what tomorrow's topic, but all will be revealed -- tomorrow. See you then.

In This Chat
Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinons and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from geneology to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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