Last night, during Sunday night football, one of my friends retweeted a comment from a Twitter user called Lolo813 (she has protected her tweets) that said: "Um, being suspended for sexual assault isn't adversity. It would be great if the announcers would stop calling it that."
She was referring to the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who in March was accused of sexual assault and subsequently suspended for six games. He's back, and, after their win Sunday, the Steelers are headed to the Super Bowl.
If the announcers referred to his alleged misdeeds and subsequent punishment as "adversity," they're not alone. When Roethlisberger was accused, he and his defenders relied on a handy sports-star excuse, and the accusation was promptly forgotten by many Steelers fans in particular and football fans in general. Boys will be boys, and they're just out there on the field having fun, after all.
Contrast that to the opprobrium ready for Michael Vick, a former Atlanta Falcons quarterback whom the Philadelphia Eagles signed after he was released from two years in prison for running a dog-fighting ring. (He killed many of the dogs, too, and the judge denied him credit for showing remorse and taking responsibility before sentencing that would have reduced his time in prison.) Outcry from football fans and animal-rights groups was reignited when Vick led his team to the playoffs this year and the Eagles got a call from President Barack Obama to thank them for offering Vick a second chance, which ex-prisoners don't often get.
Vick's penance has lasted well past his prison term, of course: Part of his probation is to volunteer for the humane society. He's apologized and says he has reformed. Roethlisberger, however, won't ever serve jail time. The charges were never filed because of a botched investigation by his cop friends, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Roethlisberger did his share of apologizing and crying, but all of this just drives home the point my friend often makes: There are people in the NFL who do to humans what Michael Vick did to dogs, and, for some reason, people care less. (In general, I mean abuse: though accusations of serious crimes dot the NFL's history.) There are a lot of variables at play -- as a society, we still tend to doubt rape accusers, and sports stars get by without facing up to such charges alarmingly often; Roethlisberger is white, while Vick is black -- and sorting them out is a weighty task. But, as the tweet said, this isn't really a case of Roethlisberger overcoming adversity, just one of him getting by.
-- Monica Potts