The Media Hypocrisy In The Case Of Ben Roethlisberger | Robert Littal Presents BlackSportsOnline
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The Media Hypocrisy In The Case Of Ben Roethlisberger

by Robert Littal | Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010
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“Just because I understand doesn’t make it right.”

Many years ago, this was my father’s response to an incident I was involved in while in high school.  He explained to me that although he understood my actions, there was no justification; I was wrong.

Often, as I observe how the sports media responds to scandal or criminal investigation, I recall his statement.  This brings me to the most recent and alleged case against Ben Roethlisberger.

I understand.

I understand why most media outlets took almost three hours to report on it.  I understand why they are trying to sweep it under the rug.  I understand why Roethlisberger is getting benefit of the doubt.

Just because I understand doesn’t make it right.

Allow me to be clear, this has nothing to do with Ben Roethlisberger, per se.  In fact, this has nothing to do with his perceived guilt or innocence.  Unfortunately, he now has little control over how he is portrayed.

This is about being fair and unbiased.

For four months, I’ve watched a man who has neither committed a crime, nor been accused of one, be treated like a convicted criminal.

I’ve watched a man who has paid his debt to society (for a crime that didn’t fit the punishment) be persecuted to the point where he can’t go anywhere without being picketed.

I’ve witnessed a man face rape allegations from a woman who OPENLY tried to extort him and get fired from his radio show.

I’ve seen a man try very hard not to say the wrong things during a press conference, only to be the lead story in the media’s twisted reporting.

These examples are only a few of many; however, when it comes to Ben Roethlisberger, the media just seems to “Jamarcus Shrug” it, and I wonder why?

Roethlisberger is not being accused of loitering.   He has been accused of sexual assault.  He has been accused twice in the last two years, but for some odd reason ESPN thought Josh Cribbs’ extension was a more important story (it led Big Ben.)

None of the major sports news sites had the Roethlisberger case as their top story.  Chester Taylor receiving $12 million from the Chicago Bears was a much bigger story than a two time Super Bowl quarterback being accused of following a woman into the ladies restroom and sexually assaulting her.

People ask me all the time, “is there a race element to this?”

If Donovan McNabb had been accused twice of sexual assault, would the reporting be the same?

Would there have been an Outside the Lines special?

Would it have taken four hours for it to be reported in the mainstream media?

Again, I say…….

“I understand.”

Let me explain.  It is always stated that “sex sells.” The media knows this better than most, don’t let them fool you.   They are much more interested in what drives business than being fair.

If Tiger Woods just had a random affair no one would have cared.  The auto accident, the 9 Iron, the porn stars, the reality show women, and the sex rehab are reasons why he’s been treated like a criminal.

The media built him up, so certainly it is no surprise that they were foaming at the mouth to tear him down.  Athletes have affairs all the time, but it is the perception that Tiger was no longer perfect that fueled the story, not the affair itself.

Michael Vick was usually polarized along racial lines, so when he got caught up in dog fighting,  something that “middle America” was seemingly unaware of, it was of no surprise that the media pandered to their naiveté.

Terrell Owens, never convicted of anything, never in trouble, is constantly compared to criminals because the media knows the broader fan is simple-minded enough to think someone who just talks a lot and is black is automatically a “thug”.

It is media’s manipulation of the fan.  I was watching the documentary, Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, and there, the media admitted they played up the “Black vs. White”, “Hollywood vs. Hick”, “Athletic vs. Hard Working” angles.

I don’t think media outlets are racist, I think they are more interested in making money and they will play any card that will make that happen.

Fans preferences and sensibilities dictate sports stories.  If there is a racial element to it, the media is guaranteed a match to the fire.

But, the Roethlisberger case isn’t about race as much as perception and here’s why.

Roethlisberger is not perceived as a guy who is very smart, he isn’t perceived as a virtuous guy, he has never been touted as role model, yet he is a star. He isn’t Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Brett Favre.  What he is is a blue collar QB in a blue collar town.  He is an everyday man’s man.

In his past, he’s been known to do dumb things (for example, the riding a motorcycle without a helmet or license) and he has been labeled by his own teammates as a drama queen.  He is human.

This is not a black or white thing but more of an indifference thing.  Trust me.  If this was Tim Tebow accused of sexual assault it would be a huge deal.

I believe this is a more legitimate story to investigate than Tiger Woods’ and his women, even though the Tiger story has and will continue to garner more attention than a possible two-time Super Bowl champion having a “real sexual problem.”

In this way, our society is backward.  We tend to care more about the people we place on a pedestal.  We feel that they should apologize to us for not meeting our expectations.

It shouldn’t work like that.  Everyone should be treated fairly; after all, the law deems a person innocent until proven guilty.

Since Tiger Woods was virtually forced to apologize for his indiscretions, I’d like press conferences for every athlete and/or media personality who has ever cheated on their spouse.

If you are going to picket Michael Vick, be sure to picket Jared Allen.

For the attention or lack thereof, you would give Tim Tebow if he were accused of sexual assault, twice, afford Roethlisberger the same.

I started this site almost five years ago under the premise I would be fair and unbiased, because so many in the media are not.

Five years later not much has changed.   If anything, it has gotten worse.  I get it and that makes me sad.

Just because I understand doesn’t make it right.

About the Author

Founder of BlackSportsOnline and BonaFide Media. @BlackSportsOnline. Email Robert


Displaying 22 Comments
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  1. bran says:

    This is a good article/ post but it only scratches the surface. Not only does sex sell but race does as well. Its a sad but true fact.

  2. Great article. I thought you might enjoy this similar article title, "Fans, Media and Racism Without Racists"
    http://www.theyankeeu.com/2010/02/fans-media-and-

    Outside of putting his foot in his mouth occassionally and probably not being the greatest teammate in the locker-room, what's up with the media and T.O.?

    • Read the article you linked and it's also very dead on.

    • T.O. just talks too much. Sometimes he is dead on, sometimes he takes it a bit too far, but not to be vilified

      • I get that. He would be better off keeping his public statement really brief and to the point. I know he has a big mouth. Before I really knew who Terrell Owens was, I thought he was a criminal. I thought he was a real bad-ass who committed a major crime or something in his collegiate career. I did research on him and found nothing.

  3. Agree with this 100%. Couldn't have said it any better or truer.

  4. Terrence Thompson says:

    Actually listened to Mike and Mike dig into Roth this morning. I thought they could have went a little deeper but it obvious at that point that it was kinda about race.

  5. Diondrea says:

    While I check myself on calling media bias racism, that’s all this is. Big Ben will always get the benefit of doubt from mainstream (white) media while black folks who haven’t even gotten a jaywalking ticket (ie. T.O.) Will always get the shaft because they don’t “act right”.

  6. honest white man says:

    I would LOVE to see someone reason why this article isn't 100% Grade A TRUTH.

  7. youngbrothas says:

    good drop fam as always

  8. youngbrothas says:

    btw, you went all the way in on a topic 1 of our writers grazed the surface on YB
    http://youngbrothas.com/2010/03/07/ben-roethlisbe

  9. mr_jbrown says:

    Why hasn't ESPN hired you to be a columnist for them? But then again, you make too much sense for them.

  10. Smonde says:

    One of the best articles I've read in a looong time!

  11. dlabreck7 says:

    its always about race. call the naacp.

  12. ATLJEFF says:

    This article is right on the money. There is such a disparity in media treatment that I am amazed that everyone, even "middle America" can't see it. Hats off to BSO for preachin the truth!

  13. Even though this is an old article, I stumbled across this website while searching Yahoo. This was a nice article. I hope to see you remove the main idea from this article and make another separate article, and maybe include a vid, too? If you do, it will be greatly welcomed.

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