Big Ben's just a pawn for Goodell

BY Jason Whitlock • February 2, 2011

You can blame Brett Favre and Michael Vick for Roger Goodell’s brutally unfair treatment of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Goodell, the self-appointed NFL discipline czar, is using Big Ben as a shield in a behind-the-scenes battle to prove the commissioner’s office is not sexist or racist.

Peter King’s reputation is just unfortunate collateral damage in Goodell’s public-relations war.

I can’t fathom another reasonable explanation for the commish battering Big Ben in January for “crimes” the Pittsburgh QB committed nearly a year ago and was punished for at the beginning of the regular season.

The only other explanation is Goodell is stupid, and I’m not ready to buy that excuse.

In case you missed it, in an exclusive interview with King on Jan. 7, Goodell unloaded a helmet-to-helmet, blindside hit on Roethlisberger. Goodell estimated he talked to two dozen NFL players before giving Roethlisberger a six-game suspension for being accused (not charged) a second time of sexual assault and “not one, not a single player, went to (Roethlisberger’s) defense.”

King initially implied that Goodell meant that “not one Pittsburgh Steeler” came to Roethlisberger’s defense. King later clarified his report.

It doesn’t matter. Goodell made his point. A month before the Super Bowl, in a story Goodell surely knew would be published Super Bowl week, the commissioner took one final potshot at his punching-bag quarterback. In the same interview, Goodell poured another round of sympathy on Michael Vick, a star QB who was actually convicted of and jailed for a crime.


Because Goodell’s personal-conduct policy and his boneheaded decision to serve as judge, jury and executioner of the policy has forced the commissioner to play racial politics.

Big Ben is Goodell’s white whipping boy.

Big Ben is a prop Goodell can use to say to the league’s black players and race-baiters (Jesse Jackson) that the commissioner is equally tough on white players.

Big Ben is also a prop Goodell can use to say to female fans and journalists that he is tough on white quarterbacks who are predatory toward women.

Roethlisberger is the single stone that kills both birds.

You see, Favre opened the commissioner’s office to a lot of criticism. By dragging out the investigation of Favre’s alleged sextual harassment of Jenn Sterger and other female Jets contract employees and slapping The Old Gunslinger with a harmless $50,000 fine, Goodell left himself vulnerable to the Jesse Jackson and Gloria Allred crowds.

Those crowds were/are ready to accuse Goodell of racism, and sexism as it relates to Favre.

Big Ben is the glove that doesn’t fit (so you must acquit). He’s the race card dealt from the bottom of the deck.

Seriously, can you imagine what would happen if Goodell took a needless potshot at Michael Vick? Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would shatter Usain Bolt’s 100-meter record in a dash to be the first person on ESPN to claim Goodell has a “slave-owner mentality.”

I know I’m not supposed to mention this, but Roethlisberger has actually handled his post-accusation situation better than Vick has handled his post-conviction situation.

Let me know when Big Ben hosts a parking-lot-shots-fired, white-linen party.

OK, let me also be clear: I like Roethlisberger, Vick and Favre. I like the underdog. A tiny part of me wants Favre to come back for another season and right the wrongs of this past season. I’m just built that way. I want things to work out for the people society wants to see fail.

For me, the perfect Super Bowl would have pitted Vick vs. Roethlisberger.

I want them both to experience professional and personal redemption.

Big Ben needs positive reinforcement as much as Vick.

Am I really supposed to believe there weren’t two dozen NFL players willing to throw Vick under the bus in the aftermath of his dogfighting controversy?

OK, maybe there were members of the Falcons willing to say good things about Vick during his dog days in Atlanta. That might say more about the low expectations Vick’s peers have for him than the kind of character Vick displayed while playing quarterback for the Falcons.

The Steelers, other NFL players and Goodell were previously offended by Roethlisberger’s behavior because they expected Ben to carry himself like a mature adult.

In America, we expect and demand that white people do the right thing. We hope and pray that we, black people, do the right thing, and we rationalize when we don’t. (Use of the N-word is Exhibit A in my defense.)

Maybe “not one” player coming to Big Ben’s defense is part of the reason he’s in his third Super Bowl, has healed his relationship with his teammates and appears to be working toward becoming a better human being.

Maybe had “not one” Falcon or enabler defended Vick’s every misstep in Atlanta, Vick would have changed course long before he arrived at a Leavenworth prison cell.

Let’s hope no one defends Goodell for his treatment of Roethlisberger.

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