Thursday, July 30, 2009

Big Ben's Pass



Innocent until proven guilty. It’s one of the many things that makes me proud to be an American. Our Constitution protects the rights of those accused of wrongdoing. Our judicial system is designed to protect the reputation of those charged until they have their day in court. Sadly, the evolving role of the media has severely hindered a person’s right to maintain innocence until a judge or jury says otherwise.

The role of the press has grave implications in stirring public perception. Decisions are made before that important day in court. Evidence is filtered through the sieve of public opinion until all is known before attorneys make opening statements. This is most critical when it comes to cases involving celebrities. The media catches hold and keeps the story before us until we’re tired and in need of a new fix.

The media’s fascination with sensationalism, combined with the public’s need to know as much as possible about the lives of the rich and famous, has me confused as to why more hasn’t been reported on the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault case. Big Ben has gone about business as if nothing has happened to disrupt his life.

On July 17, 2009, a lawsuit was filed in Washoe County, Nevada District Court accusing the All Pro NFL Quarterback of sexually assaulting Andrea McNutty, 31, in 2008. The lawsuit claims the incident happened in Roethlisberger’s hotel room while he was in Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament. The suit seeks at least $400,000 in damages from Roethlisberger and also alleges hotel officials went to great lengths to cover up the incident.

According to McNutty, she was working as an executive casino host in July 2008, when Roethlisberger struck up a friendly conversation at the front desk. The following night she claims Roethlisberger called her to complain about the television sound system not working properly. He asked her to look at it. After determining it was functioning properly she turned to leave, but he stood in front of the door and blocked her, then grabbed her and started to kiss her. The lawsuit claims she required hospitalization for treatment for depression after the alleged attack.

Critics of the suit point to the failure of the alleged victim to file charges at the time. Proving guilt void of a criminal conviction raises questions related to the validity of the lawsuit. The absence of a police report raises concerns about the motives of the alleged victim. She is portrayed as a lunatic in search of a big payday. Roethlisberger gets a pass from the press, and none of his sponsors see the need to pull his ads as we wait for that important court date.

Why has Roethlisberger been given a pass? I saw one of his ads run on Sports Center within an hour of the press conference where he stated emphatically that he did not sexually assault that woman. I’m not surprised by his declaration of innocence. What shocks me is the ease in which he has wiggled his way through the media maze with little damage to his reputation. There’s hardly any mention of it on the multitude of junk food news broadcast. Those sponsors keep running those ads as if nothing has happened, and the public has failed to respond in a way consistent with when other ball players found themselves in trouble.

There’s a long list of athletes gone wild-O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Jason Williams, Isaiah Thomas, Barry Bonds, Cedric Benson, Donte’ Stalworth, Plaxico Burress, Michael Phelps and Michael Vick. Some faced major hits to their public image. Others had their day in court. The sad truth is most of them are black. Michael Phelps got caught smoking weed, and had to forfeit, for a little while, some of his endorsement contracts. The others on this list are black.

So, is there a double standard in the way the media and the public approaches the news of a person charged of a crime? Does the race of the person charged impact the assumptions made regarding the guilt or innocence of the person charged, or has Roethlisberger been given a pass merely because of the specifics of the case. With that being said, does the public have enough information to come to that conclusion, or is it possible that the white boy is assumed innocent until proven guilty, while the black boys are assumed guilty until proven innocent.

I don’t have the answer. I’m just shocked that Big Ben is treated so kindly in this case.

13 comments:

  1. Question: "So, is there a double standard in the way the media and the public approaches the news of a person charged of a crime? "

    Answer: Yes

    ReplyDelete
  2. And this double standard can usually even be seen in the coverage of crimes by non-athletes as well....
    How often is the drug dealing and drug use in the white suburbs even covered?

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, the press is giving Roethlisberger a free pass because he's white, or because on the surface the suit seems frivolous and we're all waiting for more information? Carl, you might have chosen a better example if you wanted to make a point of press racial bias.

    And, your comparisons are interesting:

    BLACK
    Michael Vick - dogfighting and killing of dogs who wouldn't fight, lying to investigators - prison and reinstatement by NFL.
    O.J. Simpson - savage murder of wife and her friend - acquited of crime, but found guilty in civil court but never paid awarded damages
    Adam Jones - You're defending this guy? Arrested multiple times for assault, alchohol abuse, and drugs.
    Ron Artest - fighting with BB fans, numerous fights with teammates - suspended for part of season
    Jason Williams - manslaughter - acquitted on technicality but guilty of covering up shooting. Now charged with assault in another case.
    Kobe Bryant - sexual assault - forced to buy wife expensive ring.
    Plaxico Burress - carrying and discharging concealed firearm in public place - trial not finished.

    WHITE
    Michael Phelps - smoking weed (oh, yea, that ranks right up there with murder and rape) - loss of two million dollar endorsement contracts

    You could have at least included white Dave Meggett (sexual assault - prison sentence) or John Daly (physcial assault on spouse), but then you'd have to list Mike Tyson (rape - prison), Ray Lewis (murder, acquited), Rae Carruth (murder), Darryl Strawberry (repeated drug convictions, assault), etc.

    Athletes as a whole are given a pass most of their life. While 90% of common people charged with sexual assault are convicted, only 32% of athlestes are.

    So, the "double standard" claim isn't a black-white thing, but and athlete-nonathlete thing.

    As for "Musing's" comment about white suburbs, he/she should study the demographics of Durham and realize there are no all white suburbs here. Secondly, very few drug users of any race are mentioned in the paper, except when they commit an additional crime.

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