Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger originally received a six-game suspension as a result of rape accusations against him. But now the punishment has been cut down because he went to church. And apologized to his teammates. And cried.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Friday that he would reduce Roethlisberger's suspension to four games, saying to the quarterback,
You have told me and the Steelers that you committed to making better decisions. Your actions over the past several months have been consistent with that promise, and you must continue to honor that commitment.
All this is a little vague, but apparently Roethlisberger's non-raping actions since March, when he was last accused of sexual assault, have included:
— Going to church.
Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News says Roethlisberger is now a "church person" again. He quotes Roethlisberger: "I know who I am and God knows who I am, and that's all that really matters."
— Apologizing to his team.
Says Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, "He apologized to all the guys. It was very heartwarming. He didn't have to do it." It's interesting that Roethlisberger felt compelled to apologize to "the guys" — but not, as far as we can tell, to the woman he allegedly assaulted.
USA Today's Huddle blog notes that "Roethlisberger wept while addressing his teammates." He reportedly said, "It's very tough, kind of emotional. I just gotta do what I gotta do." Our hearts bleed.
Roethlisberger's reduction for a few months of churchgoing and tears (which, as the Post points out, is very convenient for the Steelers' season) is just the latest in a long series of mixed messages and half measures. As many have noted, the quarterback hasn't been charged with a crime — perhaps as a result of numerous police screwups. So in punishing him in the first place, Goodell made some vague statements about how Roethlisberger's partying with college kids "put the students and yourself at risk" — effectively making an alleged rape sound like merely an evening of bad judgment.
Goodell's options were somewhat limited by the lack of a criminal charge, but the six-game suspension ended up sending the message that Roethlisberger had done something sort of bad — bad enough to warrant a timeout, but nothing more severe. And now that his timeout has been shortened, the message is even more disturbing: crying and going to church apparently cancel out rape accusations. Again, at this point we'll likely never know what really happened that night in Georgia. Instead, what we're left with is a combination of confusion and halfassery that may keep future rape victims from coming forward: after all, they've learned that a tearful apology makes rape allegations 33% less bad.
Hines Ward: Ben Roethlisberger 'Broke Down' In Emotional Apology To Steelers On Thursday [USA Today Huddle Blog]
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Should Not Have Shortened Big Ben Roethlisberger's Suspension [NY Daily News]
A Closer Look At Goodell's Roethlisberger Decision [NY Post]