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#7 Gets a Deep Six


Mac the Knife

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Roger Goodell has lowered the boom on Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, suspending him for the first six games of the 2010 NFL season and requiring him to essentially get counseling before his return or else face a longer suspension.

I'm no Big Ben apologist by any means, but this seems harsh. I mean, players have been busted by the police and convicted of drug offenses and received four game suspensions, and Roethlisberger wasn't even charged and gets slapped with a six game hit? Seems excessive to me.

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Sexual assault, especially repeat allegations of such, are more serious offenses than drug possession. I would assume that the NFL has been doing some side investigations of its own, and if the rumors that they were actually thinking of upping it to a 10 gamer were true, they likely uncovered a rather serious pattern that somebody (Roethlisberger, the Steelers) had been doing a good job of publicly covering up.

The fact that extensive counseling and monitoring are also part of the punishment really implies that this was not an isolated incident.

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Even if he is entirely innocent in each of the incident, he obviously has some serious decision making and behaviour problems he needs to address in order to stop himself getting into yet more of these problems. He needs a wake up call, and as a multi millionaire pro athlete, taking away his ability to play is probably one of the only ways to do it.

Frankly, some one who has been twice accused of sexual assault, is a far more serious issue than drug use or possession. It was my understanding that charges weren't laid in this case because the victim (alleged victim if you prefer) declined to pursue the matter further.

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To repeat myself from the other thread,

The Roethlisberger thing is such a mess to me, because he probably did rape those girls, and yet dropping the hammer on people for "probably" doesn't feel right. Yes, I know it's not a court of law, and they don't need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes, he should stop getting into situations where one might get the impression that he's a serial rapist. Nevertheless, missing 38% of your job and your pay for acting like a fool seems awfully draconian to me, and this will only stand because the NFLPA has the spine of an amoeba and the bargaining leverage of a homeless man.

I really don't know. My ACLU side is in conflict with my rapist-scum-hating side. The most diplomatic way of handling this would've been to negotiate all this in private and present it as Ben voluntarily taking time off for the help he needs. I bet that's how Stern would've done it: lay down the law, but still protect your guys by not appearing excessively punitive. Unfortunately, David Stern can't run all our leagues, so we're stuck with a doofus whose approach to governing his sport seems to stop just short of grabbing a bullhorn to yell "MY DICK IS TWELVE FEET LONG."

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Well, let me be clear on one point in case I wasn't - I'm not at all condoning the behavior, in any way, shape or form.

I'm just looking at it in the same way (I think) an impartial court judge would. On the one hand you have a guy (okay, there've been several on the Bengals alone) who've been busted and convicted on all sorts of offenses, and received four game suspensions for violations of the league's conduct policy, and on the other you have a guy who has had two accusations, neither of which resulted in a trial let alone a conviction, and the discipline metered out is similar if not more stringent.

I'm not comparing the offenses involved, nor saying that Roethlisberger is innocent or guilty, I'm just saying that in this case it seems as if Goodell decided to send a strong message, upping the ante as it were in cases where player conduct is brought into question.

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.... and on the other you have a guy who has had two accusations, neither of which resulted in a trial let alone a conviction, and the discipline metered out is similar if not more stringent.

Yes, but you don't have to do something illegal to violate a conduct policy. As a 28-year old, Roethlisberger probably shouldn't be hanging out at clubs with college-aged kids. Having sex with one of them in the club bathroom is pretty low class. No employer (Steelers, NFL) wants their organization's name associated with behavior like that.

The length of the suspension may also be linked to other facts that we don't know about or to Roethlisberger's actions/attitude when meeting with Goodell. Roethlisberger's suspesion can be reduced based on him meeting certain goals, so it may not end up being 6 games.

I wonder what Goodell would have done to former Packers TE Mark Chmura when Chmura was caught in a hot tub with drunk high school girls. While that isn't illegal, but it is very creepy.

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Well, let me be clear on one point in case I wasn't - I'm not at all condoning the behavior, in any way, shape or form.

I'm just looking at it in the same way (I think) an impartial court judge would. On the one hand you have a guy (okay, there've been several on the Bengals alone) who've been busted and convicted on all sorts of offenses, and received four game suspensions for violations of the league's conduct policy, and on the other you have a guy who has had two accusations, neither of which resulted in a trial let alone a conviction, and the discipline metered out is similar if not more stringent.

I'm not comparing the offenses involved, nor saying that Roethlisberger is innocent or guilty, I'm just saying that in this case it seems as if Goodell decided to send a strong message, upping the ante as it were in cases where player conduct is brought into question.

He has upped the ante. The San Diego union-Tribune ran a story on the number of incidents had been lowered since the policy's creation, and the NFL admits that there are still areas where player conduct needs to improve, specifically drunk driving.

From the story:

Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a toughened personal conduct policy on April 10, 2007. Number of arrests/citations before and after:

April 2006-April 2007: 79

2007-08: 65

2008-09: 61

2009-2010: 44

Union-Tribune Story on Personal Conduct Policy's Effectiveness

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The NFL doesn't care about guys raping or doing drugs. Not for a second. They care about making money (and, as a for-profit business, that's what they should care about.) If people preceive a league to be full of criminals, rapists, drug addicts, etc., that could have a long-term effect on sales. These guys are NOT role models, but if parents use them as role models (which is dumb), then having a suspected rapist and confirmed idiot as your team's quarterback could lead parents to not let their kids really get in to the team because they don't want little johnny wanting to grow up to be like Big Ben. Crime or no, trial or no, it doesn't matter. Suspending him sends a message to the people that the league doesn't want bad guys in it, and that the guys who aren't suspended are good guys that your kids can look up to. Of course, we know that isn't true, but if suspending him and giving him a chance to come back having "had time to think about it and turn his life around" means that people will stay on board with him and keep buying his jerseys, then it's the right move for business.

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You know I think maybe this is somewhat the right move since Ben Roethlisberger appears to be scum, and he has a history of questionable off the field moves, but I just find it a bit unsettling the Comish can do this if the player is not even charged, after a legal criminal investigation by a DA and a Police Department. I mean anybody can make charges, but if the police cant gather enough evidence to even bring charges, or present to a Grand Jury than I don't the NFL should be able to hand out such a harsh suspension.

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I'm scratching my head on this, but who exactly calls athletes roll models? I never looked at an athlete as a roll model, nor was I ever told to. I'm just curious on who sits there and tells their kid that "such and such a player is a roll model"? I always looked at athletes and athletes and there were good ones and bad ones. If I'm teaching a kid how to hit a baseball, I throw in tapes of Barry Bonds and how he hits. If I'm teaching a kid about roll models, there are so many other people out there that do good and aren't paid ridiculous amounts of money for playing games.

As far as the 6 games for Rothlisberger. I think he should get 6 games for just being a friggin' bonehead. He doesn't get it, and I doubt he ever will. He thinks he's above everyone else and can't be touched. You hope that this suspension teaches him a lesson, but I doubt it will. You know the guy is a complete bonehead when you say that he makes T.O. and Chad Johnson (#85) look like model citizens. I say send Ben to Oakland and let him really be punished for the rest of his career.

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TO and Chad Ochocinco are model citizens. I don't recall ever hearing about either of them potentially being charged with a crime, or in trouble in any way with the law.

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You know I think maybe this is somewhat the right move since Ben Roethlisberger appears to be scum, and he has a history of questionable off the field moves, but I just find it a bit unsettling the Comish can do this if the player is not even charged, after a legal criminal investigation by a DA and a Police Department. I mean anybody can make charges, but if the police cant gather enough evidence to even bring charges, or present to a Grand Jury than I don't the NFL should be able to hand out such a harsh suspension.

Well, the NFL is a private organization. It's not a court of law, and the same standards of evidence do not apply. The NFL could conceivably ban him from playing because his name is too difficult to spell if they felt like it.

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You know I think maybe this is somewhat the right move since Ben Roethlisberger appears to be scum, and he has a history of questionable off the field moves, but I just find it a bit unsettling the Comish can do this if the player is not even charged, after a legal criminal investigation by a DA and a Police Department. I mean anybody can make charges, but if the police cant gather enough evidence to even bring charges, or present to a Grand Jury than I don't the NFL should be able to hand out such a harsh suspension.

Well, the NFL is a private organization. It's not a court of law, and the same standards of evidence do not apply. The NFL could conceivably ban him from playing because his name is too difficult to spell if they felt like it.

Not exactly. Tank does have some legitimate concerns. There is the potential that a US Court could see this recent policy in violation of The Sherman Act.

Link to the Abstract

The NFL is currently in another case which SCOTUS will determine the NFL's status.

However, if the NFL is considered as a single entity, then they can possess conduct policies like colleges and universities have for students. Plus, Gene Upshaw accepted the first policy.

"The NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council have been discussing this issue for several months," Upshaw said. "We believe that these are steps that the commissioner needs to take and we support the policy. It is important that players in violation of the policy will have the opportunity and the support to change their conduct and earn their way back." Credit: USA Today 4/11/2007

FYI, the current personal conduct policy applies to "all persons associated with the NFL". Do not be surprised if Jerry Jones privately had to cut a check or will so following the draft.

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The NFL doesn't care about guys raping or doing drugs. Not for a second. They care about making money (and, as a for-profit business, that's what they should care about.) If people preceive a league to be full of criminals, rapists, drug addicts, etc., that could have a long-term effect on sales.

Yep, which is why the league is so selective about this policy. What happened to James Harrison and Jeff Reed, who actually were arrested and charged with crimes? Nothing, because their transgressions barely registered a blip in the media. But Ben's situation was a huge fiasco which means Goodell has to bring the hammer down even without an arrest or charges or anything.

Not exactly. Tank does have some legitimate concerns. There is the potential that a US Court could see this recent policy in violation of The Sherman Act.

Link to the Abstract

Honestly, the real deal here would be under labor law. The conduct policy was unilaterally imposed, it's not part of the CBA. The NFLPA is really weak in that they allowed such a vague policy to be enacted, under which the commissioner has incredibly broad authority to punish people, and is also the sole arbiter or any appeal. Can you imagine if Bud Selig tried that? The MLBPA would have him in court in a matter of days.

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I still don't get how the Steelers are whining about how he is disgracing them, I mean if they knew all about his stunts then I would, but ONE person does not make a team or an organization.

Come on man, I know you're smarter than this. Of course one person does not make a team or an organization, but one person who is overwhelmingly the most exposed person in that organization becomes the de facto representative of that organization, and his transgressions (or positive deeds) absolutely do reflect on the entire organization. It's not necessarily "fair", but that's how business works. The average slack-jawed yokel in central Kentucky isn't going to sit there and research all of the players on the Steelers roster, or all of the good things that the Rooney's have done over the years, they're just going to know that when they think about the Steelers, the first thing that pops into their hillbilly mind is their hillbilly quarterback, so said quarterback becomes an icon of the organization, hence his actions reflect on the organizations. If the Steelers don't punish him (or abide by the commish's punnishment) then they in effect condone the actions, which makes it even worse.

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Yes, but you don't have to do something illegal to violate a conduct policy. As a 28-year old, Roethlisberger probably shouldn't be hanging out at clubs with college-aged kids. Having sex with one of them in the club bathroom is pretty low class. No employer (Steelers, NFL) wants their organization's name associated with behavior like that.

The length of the suspension may also be linked to other facts that we don't know about or to Roethlisberger's actions/attitude when meeting with Goodell. Roethlisberger's suspesion can be reduced based on him meeting certain goals, so it may not end up being 6 games.

You're absolutely right on all these points - the NFL, as a private, membership organization (which technically is what it is) doesn't necessarily have to hold itself to a strict legal standard when it comes to disciplinary matters related to its member clubs. The NFL Constitution and Bylaws give the Commissioner's office pretty broad powers when it comes to discipline, and even the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the players union doesn't limit them all that much.

I actually had something somewhat similar happen in that a player in my flag football league once threatened to sue me because I banned him for life for taking a swing (but not making contact) at an opponent... his argument was that he paid to be in the league, so at minimum I, as the league officer who banned him, owed him reimbursement if I weren't reinstated. Our lawyer (and as I later learned, his own) told him that as a privately-run operation, we could establish whatever rules of conduct we wanted provided they weren't in violation of the law... and that his actions, which were technically a violation of law, trumped any argument he made on that subject.

Personally I think Roethlisberger's conduct is nothing short of reprehensible, and that the Steelers, being the class organization they are, should and will drop him like a bad habit as soon as they can get anything close to market value for him.

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Yes, but you don't have to do something illegal to violate a conduct policy. As a 28-year old, Roethlisberger probably shouldn't be hanging out at clubs with college-aged kids. Having sex with one of them in the club bathroom is pretty low class. No employer (Steelers, NFL) wants their organization's name associated with behavior like that.

The length of the suspension may also be linked to other facts that we don't know about or to Roethlisberger's actions/attitude when meeting with Goodell. Roethlisberger's suspesion can be reduced based on him meeting certain goals, so it may not end up being 6 games.

You're absolutely right on all these points - the NFL, as a private, membership organization (which technically is what it is) doesn't necessarily have to hold itself to a strict legal standard when it comes to disciplinary matters related to its member clubs. The NFL Constitution and Bylaws give the Commissioner's office pretty broad powers when it comes to discipline, and even the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the players union doesn't limit them all that much.

I actually had something somewhat similar happen in that a player in my flag football league once threatened to sue me because I banned him for life for taking a swing (but not making contact) at an opponent... his argument was that he paid to be in the league, so at minimum I, as the league officer who banned him, owed him reimbursement if I weren't reinstated. Our lawyer (and as I later learned, his own) told him that as a privately-run operation, we could establish whatever rules of conduct we wanted provided they weren't in violation of the law... and that his actions, which were technically a violation of law, trumped any argument he made on that subject.

Personally I think Roethlisberger's conduct is nothing short of reprehensible, and that the Steelers, being the class organization they are, should and will drop him like a bad habit as soon as they can get anything close to market value for him.

Technically, isn't market value whatever the other teams are willing to give them? If teams are offering a 2, or 3s and 4s, doesn't that become his market value? If his reputation has gone down hill as much as it seems it has, and if he's only one transgression away from a possible year-long suspension, I'd say that his market value is significantly lower than his performance value.

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Honestly, the real deal here would be under labor law. The conduct policy was unilaterally imposed, it's not part of the CBA.

I don't think you are correct. Article XI of the CBA gives the Commissioner the right to take action against a player for "conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football."

Appendix C to the CBA, the standard player contract, has this section (bit about throwing a game removed):

15. INTEGRITY OF GAME. Player recognizes the detriment to the League and professional football that would result from impairment of public confidence in the honest and orderly conduct of NFL games or the integrity and good character of NFL players. Player therefore acknowledges his awareness that if he ... is guilty of any other form of conduct reasonably judged by the League Commissioner to be detrimental to the League or professional football, the Commissioner will have the right, but only after giving Player the opportunity for a hearing at which he may be represented by counsel of his choice, to fine Player in a reasonable amount; to suspend Player for a period certain or indefinitely; and/or to terminate this contract.

So not only is the Commissioner's power to take this action part of the CBA, it appears in every contract. The specific amount of suspension isn't in the CBA, but Goodell is explicitly given wide latitude.

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