Monday, May 03, 2010

An interesting read

Peter King, the outstanding NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, had this piece in his Monday Morning Quarterback (if you don't read it regularly, you should) today.

Steelers fans - and NFL fans in general - should find it interesting:

"I've come into possession of the letter sent by David Cornwell, the attorney for Ben Roethlisberger, to the commissioner after Roger Goodell met with Roethlisberger in April and before Goodell issued his sanction against the Steelers quarterback for his loutish behavior. It's interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Goodell and Cornwell used to work together in the NFL office and are friendly; the letter has a familiar but legal tone to it befitting a lawyer comfortable giving frank advice and opinion to his former league peer.
Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum has a Roethlisberger story in the magazine coming out this week, with the help of some fine SI reporting. When you read the piece, you'll understand, I think, why both Cornwell and Goodell thought this shouldn't be your garden-variety suspension, but rather a suspension paired with counseling.
The letter, dated April 15, reads in part:
Dear Commissioner Goodell:
I am confident that we share the same view of the men who play professional football. While the public sees men of extraordinary athletic prowess, rarely is there any acknowledgement of the years of physical and mental preparation or the commitment that is made merely to be in the position to compete on Sundays. This pervasive blind spot tends to cause the public and the media to focus primarily on the football player and not the man who plays football. But, we know better.
My view is that too often there is an inverse relationship between the player's talent and the man's ability to confront and overcome challenges of life away from the game. I have gotten to know Ben extremely well over the past year. Watching Ben off the field has given me great insight into why he has been so successful on it. Ben's rectilinear approach and his method of analysis -- processing things as a quarterback so that he is in control -- have served him well as a football player, but this singular focus is the primary reason that he is facing the challenges that he currently confronts. Life cedes control to no man.
Though I could not have predicted these specifics, I am not surprised that Ben is dealing with a challenge of personal development. His passion for football and the remarkable success resulting from his commitment to the game necessarily means that he has compromised his development in other areas. No person has unlimited capacity. I believe that Ben's challenge is to channel some of the energy he has committed to becoming an extraordinary player into becoming an equally extraordinary person.
While Ben's sexual activities may offend some, anyone would have been hard pressed to predict that Ben's actions would have resulted in such vicious and false allegations. Ben bears exclusive responsibility for the consequences of his choices, but that does not mean that these particular consequences were foreseeable. Whether it is in the privacy of a hotel room or in the more risky environment of a semi-public restroom, a false allegation of rape simply is not within the zone of the foreseeable consequences of consensual sex.
There are two prongs to the intended effect of discipline. One is to discourage repetition of the offending behavior. The other is to encourage behavior that is more consistent with accepted principles and/or established procedures. What Ben should not have done is abundantly clear. What he should have done differently remains elusive. None of the numerous people with whom I have discussed this matter has offered a tangible alternative to the choices that Ben made other than to suggest that Ben "make better choices" in the future.
I cannot fathom how a suspension or any other form of traditional discipline will help Ben make a better choice the next time he decides to have consensual sex. The difficulty that Ben had in articulating a distinction between the risks associated with private and semi-public sex is the product of the undeniable similarity between the Reno and Georgia accusations, even though one event occurred in the privacy of Ben's hotel room and the other in a semi-public bathroom.
As you consider your options, I hope you will focus on an approach that establishes a direct nexus between your response and the issue to which it responds. Whether I am considering these options as Ben's advocate or as the person who has had the privilege of engaging in frank discussions with you unburdened by our professional affiliations, I am unable to discern a link between a suspension and any useful lesson or message that would tend to alter Ben's conduct in the future.
This is one of the more challenging conduct issues that you have confronted because the fundamental issue does not involve an arrest or criminal charges. This is an issue of lifestyle and the need to develop the tools and a method for addressing the unique challenges and opportunities that flow from the stature and celebrity enjoyed by the men who play football. I trust Ben's private conversation with you gave you a glimpse into the difficulty he had in distinguishing who he is from what he does. The public and media have yet to master this distinction. In considering where all of this will lead us, I take comfort in knowing that Ben is not the first 28 year old man to confront the reality of his actions being inconsistent with his values. Luckily, most of us have the benefit of navigating the treacherous waters of maturation outside of the glare of the media and the public.
Following a recent disciplinary hearing, you and I discussed privately your commitment to address each case based on its unique set of facts, without regard for the rancor of the public and the press. I know your commitment remains unchanged. We have also discussed my view that under certain circumstances imposing traditional discipline following a meeting between you and a player tends to devalue the impact of your unique qualities as Commissioner. While your authority emanates from the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, your effectiveness is the product of your ability to connect with the men who play the game in a manner that neither of your predecessors enjoyed.
The nuanced and dynamic nature of the issues that got us here requires an equally nuanced and dynamic response. I look forward to continuing our discussions so that we can structure such an appropriate response.
Very truly yours,
DC
Postscript: Six days later, Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for a minimum of four and a maximum of six games, and ordered him to undergo counseling after a comprehensive behavioral evaluation, banning him from team activities until counselors allow him to rejoin the team. The evaluation is likely to be completed soon, but there's no telling when he'll be able to return to work with his teammates.
Once Goodell issued his sanction, Cornwell wrote the commissioner and thanked him and league attorneys Jeff Pash and Adolpho Birch for their "genuine concern for the well-being of the man in discharging your official functions. I appreciate your candor and accessibility throughout the process with Ben. In the end, we will be measured by whether we made a difference. You did your part and I am grateful.''
At a time when there's such animus between the league and those who contest cases with it, that's a refreshing conclusion to a contentious case.

21 comments:

Dan said...

Interesting comparison to his why he is successful on the field to why he acts the way he does off the field.

I'm looking forward to the SI article on Thursday. I heard it is a doozy.

BTW my captha word verification below is "enabler". Interesting...

Anonymous said...

Interesting that one of Tomlin's favorite sayings is that "(football) is what we do, not who we are".

J said...

How did Peter King get hold of this letter from Ben's attorney to the Commissioner? Is Goodell leaking this stuff now?

Anonymous said...

Dale, everyone is crying like a baby - media and fans alike - about the Steelers taking Worilds instead of Sean Lee. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Unbelieveable that this letter was leaked.

Very crafty of lawyer to couch it in terms of consensual sex when two rape allegations have been made... one still pending. Also, when the lawyer says something like "we know what Ben shouldn't have done but no one can tell me what he should do" ??? How bout not having sex with persons who are complete strangers to him?

Other interesting item is his comment that he knows Ben well and it doesn't surprise him that he is having personal problems. I'm very curious what the SI article will reveal this week.

Anonymous said...

The other rape allegation isn't pending anything - its a civil case - not a criminal one so there's nothing pending - anyone can sue someone else in civil court.

marc said...

cornwell leaked the letter to make himself look good and try to build sympathy for #7. it's total BS in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

And frivolous civil cases are dismissed. The case in Nevada survived a motion to dismiss. So it is pending right now.

Anonymous said...

marc, you are dead on.

And Sean Lee? Why? Does the team need a fifth-string inside linebacker? Sounds more like sour grapes from lousy predictions.

SteelerBill said...

And the DA stated what he did to build a PR campaign against Ben - guess it just depends on what side of the issue you fall. I appreciate the letter, it's good to see that Ben has people around him that care about his well being off the field...

marc said...

"None of the numerous people with whom I have discussed this matter has offered a tangible alternative to the choices that Ben made other than to suggest that Ben "make better choices" in the future"

i would like to see if rooney or tomlin have something to say about this specific sentence.

hmmm...how about, hey kid, don't engage in sexual activity with an intoxicated individual in a public place.

i feel relatively certain SOMEONE has told him that.

joseph said...

Big Ben is another example of a star athlete being catered to all his life. Enabled.

As far as Sean Lee, I for one am glad we took Worilds. Our Defense excels when out outside lb's create havoc. I'd rather take a flyer on someone like Worilds than Sean Lee. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Ben is wreckless on and off the field, I for one hope he gets his head screwed on straight and drops about 20 lbs. when he comes back. I really can't feel bad for a guy who has his oportunity and drinks and wrecklessly throws it away....his life I mean we all know he does not know how to throw the ball away......ugh...work on that too while your gone Ben so you can play a few more years.

Anonymous said...

Ben ALWAYS loses his weight by training camp. Why do you think it is a problem now? And he's not going to throw the ball away, that's just the way he plays. He'll fight for a play until it is over. Tomlin likes it, Arians likes it and it has brought 2 super bowls. I for one hope he does not change that

Pgh Saint said...

I just read the SI highlights.
What a scumbag Ben is.
For example, he saw a pregnant lady at a restaurant and said what happened did you boy friend forget to pull out?
Some of the other items are worse.
This article is giving the Steelers and Pgh a bad reputation because of Ben's actions.
In summary, Ben is a rectum specialist.

Vaflyer said...

"Whether it is in the privacy of a hotel room or in the more risky environment of a semi-public restroom, a false allegation of rape simply is not within the zone of the foreseeable consequences of consensual sex."

This to me is the key quote in the article. Any of us could be in the exact same position. If the female in GA went to the bathroom consensually and fooled around consensually, how does a male predict the charge? He can't.

Anonymous said...

Plexico shot a gun in a night club and this caused Santanio Homes to spill his drink on a girl and Ben though she had the hots for him and gropped the girl.
Jeff Reed was so discusted by this action that he pulled the paper towel dispenser off and wall and Matt Spaeth got so excited that he relieved himself in public.

marc said...

vaflyer,
you're right he can't predict the charge. actually, he couldn't predict anything that would happen.

that's why when you are a star sports player and/or celebrity you don't go into public bathrooms for sex with a very drunk college girl.

it's just common sense. don't take advantage of very drunk girls. it leads to bad things. i'm sure someone told you that at some point in your life.

this letter is almost an insult to #7's parents and close friends. no one ever explained to him what it means to be a nice guy?

this letter is in no way genuine or sincere in nature. it's a publicity stunt thru and thru.

and peter king took the bait.

Vaflyer said...

Marc,

I understand the common sense...don't do this and that...part of the equation, but there is a problem here. What does the NFL do if he decides to date a girl and this happens in his own bedroom? or her bedroom? or in the summer on vacation in Europe? You see the NFL has now set the precedence that "accusation" and nothing more is needed for a suspension. Yep, stupid choice, but not necessarily criminal. Is the NFL going to suspend every player for stupid choices? And to the image crowd, protecting the image of the NFL, what happens if Tom Brady gets a divorce and it leaks that he is into fetish bondage with other men and he used to drag his wife to watch? Are they going to suspend him for the image aspect?

You see my problem is that stupidity is not grounds for suspension. He is a 28 year old male who probably gets offered more tail than any person on this blog ever has thought about. Is he supposed to obstain completely from sex?

marc said...

vaflyer,
i think there is a misconception amongst people that goodell will base his future decisions on past decisions. he has gone out of his way to say that every decision he makes is on a case by case basis.

#7 was not suspended for the nevada thing because there was absolutely no indication of wrongdoing. only her story. therefore, i believe that is proof that accusations alone will not get you suspended.

this time around there are clear indications of, at the very least, sexually taking advantage of a very drunk girl. not to mention potentially providing alcohol to minors.

clearly, goodell is rather aggressive in his stance against players' off the field incidents. however, i have no problem with how he handled this one. and in case you didn't notice, neither do the rooneys.

Anonymous said...

Ben's a big CREEP admit it how would you Steeler fans feel if that was you're daughter or sister that big Ben laid his hands on? Iwanted to say that with a different word. The Rooney's should have run the CREEP out of town.....