On Roethlisberger

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jemele Hill goes there:


Roethlisberger can be trusted in the waning seconds with the game on the line, but after this most recent accusation it's an understatement to suggest that his judgment in real life might not be nearly as reliable. 

I am not one of those people who believes athletes should have to stay confined to their homes, but after a hotel worker served Roethlisberger with a civil suit last summer accusing him of raping her at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2008, he should have been smart enough to realize the rules have changed for him. 

 In other words, the first incident officially put bar-hopping in Milledgeville, Ga., on his "to-don't" list. I understand that Roethlisberger is single and that clubbing isn't illegal, but if he couldn't see that mixing alcohol, college women, his celebrity and the nightclub scene was courting disaster, he might not be worthy of being the franchise quarterback for one of the most well-run organizations in professional sports.

I can't say I wasn't thinking the same thing. I haven't written as much because I'm a little conflicted on this notion of public figures and responsibility. We obviously don't know what happened in terms of the facts of the sexual assault allegation, and Rothlisberger is innocent until we do. 

But in terms of the situations that young people put themselves in, I'm struggling to muster much condemnation. I did some incredibly, incredibly dumb shit as a twenty-something. The only reason I didn't do more dumb shit is because, by the time I was 25, I had a partner and a kid. The fact of other people depending on you, of other people's lives being at stake, tends to make men out of a lot of boys. And then sometimes it doesn't. 

I guess Hill would argue that Roethlisberger, though childless and unmarried, has a $100 million contract to look after. I think it's worth recognizing that most athletes aren't fending off two different charges of sexual assault. That doesn't mean guilt and my instinct is to say that brothers need to chill at the crib. But older I get, the more I think some of this is just who people are. Some of us are just wired to ride the bike with no helmet. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/03/on-roethlisberger/37219/