Ben Roethlisberger is an elite NFL quarterback with two Super Bowl victories in the last five years. But his football accomplishments are regularly overshadowed by controversy off the field.
Roethlisberger, who first drew criticism for crashing his motorcycle while not wearing a helmet, was accused of sexual assault over the weekend by a 20-year-old college student in Georgia (Roethlisberger is 28). The incident comes just nine months after a woman in Utah filed a civil suit against the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback alleging he raped her.
Though "Big Ben" has vehemently denied both allegations, sports columnists are strongly chastising his "pattern of bad behavior." While the pundits admit Roethlisberger is innocent until proven guilty, they nonetheless convict him of an excess of bad judgment.
- Serial Bad Judgment in Play Taking great pains to give Roethlisberger the benefit of the doubt on legal matters, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks argues he should not be putting himself in compromising situations in the first place. "If I'm Roethlisberger, who's still facing last year's civil suit alleging he sexually assaulted a Lake Tahoe, Nev., casino hostess in the summer of 2008, that means I'm swearing off hanging out in college-town bars until 2 a.m., making the frat-boy rounds with my entourage," he clucks. "Engaging groups of college-age women while out partying isn't helpful either."
- Time to Grow Up "The man turned 28 Tuesday," sighs an exasperated Ron Cook at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, imploring the Steelers' quarterback to act like the public figure he is. "It's time Roethlisberger gets it, as well. It's time he grows up. He's no kid anymore. He needs to realize he's not just representing himself in public settings but also his family, the Steelers and his teammates."
- Not Worthy of Elite Status? ESPN's Jemele Hill goes a step further, contending Roethlisberger may not have the maturity to be a top NFL quarterback.
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 wouldn't blame the Rooney family if they're having second thoughts today about the $102 million investment they made in him.
- Beware of Throwing Stones Though the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates agrees that Roethlisberger has shown bad judgment, he has a hard time condemning a single man in his 20s for enjoying life. "I did some incredibly, incredibly dumb shit as a twenty-something," he admits. "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." Coates concludes: "Some of us are just wired to ride the bike with no helmet."