The Sexist

Ben Roethlisberger Is the Dracula of Football

Finally, it is upon us: The incomprehensible defense of Ben Roethlisberger to end all incomprehensible defenses of Ben Roethlisberger. On NPR today, sportswriter Frank Deford goes all Andy Rooney on rape, arguing that we should turn sexual predators into role models and "let the thugs play." Please listen to the segment—if only because at one point, Deford uses the word "hoosegow"—but I've summarized his thesis for you here: "Why do I have so many shoes? Who wants a fat-free Fig Newton? Why does everyone care about this rape business? Bram Stoker never benched Dracula for six chapters, so why should Roethlisberger be treated any differently? In conclusion, football > stopping rape."

Photo via LZ Creations, Creative Commons License 2.0

  • Keri

    Can't listen to it now (at work), but I just wanted to tell you I LOVE your summary. I'm trying not to laugh too hard, but I'm still getting funny looks =)

  • Em

    Ugh. As a pretty serious football fan, this kills me. I love my team, but if one of the players was accused of being a serial rapist, I wouldn't care what it did to my teams chances--the effer would have to go. It does nothing for the team's reputation and alienates fans to keep these guys around.

    Then again, sports is kind of a male-hegemony. I knew a few girls who wanted to be sports reporters in college and every professional always told them good luck, and consider plastic surgery. It's not that there aren't women who love football, it's that most of the media surrounding football and other sports largely ignores them as a demographic.

  • Kristina

    I'm sorry, what?! WHAT?! "Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel?" I missed where anything less than angel is rapist. Is that the continuum? Rapist to angel, in a few short steps??? Sexual assault is far from angelic. We're not asking him to be an angel, we're asking him to abide by laws.

  • Nicole

    I had to turn off my radio and start yelling "EFF YOU" over and over to pedestrians in a parking lot this morning.

    I had higher hopes for you, NPR.

  • Kit-Kat

    @Keri--if you click on the link, you'll find a transcript of the broadcast, which is pretty horrific. I'm not sure why someone who professes to be as much of a sports fan as Frank Deford has so little respect for professional athletes, and apparently thinks that expecting them not to sexually assault people constitutes holding them to a high standard. This is basically a live demonstration of the privilege and entitlement that are granted to male professional athletes--they're dumb brutal thugs, but they're good at football, so we should just let them play and be glad they haven't shot anybody yet.

  • Max

    @Kristina: basically! For example, there's a Nice Guy Rant that gets pasted every so often that I've seen that basically starts with "I took you home when you were drunk *and didn't even rape you or anything*! I'm such a nice guy!"

    Not Raping People: I could *swear* it's not that fucking hard--I've been doing it for 25 years!--and yet, apparently it's exceptional.

  • snobographer

    This sort of crap is why I stopped listening to NPR. I download podcasts from the marginally less sexist PRI now instead.

  • Kit-Kat

    Max, you should get a t-shirt made: "Max: Not Raping People since 1985."

  • Kristina

    @Max: WOW! You are indeed heaven-sent, with your not-rapiness. You should have a crown. Or be called an angel all the damn time.

    Or you could just be happily normal.

    Actually, that might require serious congratulations these days... So, perhaps a crown or cookie or angelic title for you it is!

  • Kristina

    I like Kit-Kat's idea. T-shirts FTW.

  • Coleman

    I heard this this morning and my jaw dropped.

  • shayne

    heard this on my way to work and spent a good 5 minutes screaming at the radio. disgusting.

  • Carrie the Red

    Normally it's Fred Fisk's grumpy-old-man-what-is-this-Internetz-thing commentaries that have me rolling my eyes, but I heard this and was pretty floored by it, too. It struck me as ironic that Deford, in trying to make an argument AGAINST athlete exceptionalism by asking why we expect them to be more morally pure than others effectively made an argument FOR athlete exceptionalism by saying they should be allowed to get away with shit that would get others fired and/or imprisoned. His argument would make sense if these guys were kept locked up in special little goon prisons between games, but as long as they're not only athletes but members of the general society, perhaps they should have to commit to a non-rapey policy like the rest of us do.

  • kza

    I'm not going to bother listening to the dude be an idiot, but I don't think players who haven't been charged with anything should be suspended. I don't give a shit what players do off the field, if their not in prison let them play.

  • Ami

    Just wrote something myself about another rape apology regarding Roethlisberger on NPR, but this takes the cake.

  • Emily H.

    Actually I'm pretty sure there are many jobs where you can get fired for shit you haven't been convicted of, or that isn't even illegal. Haven't people been fired for, like, having inappropriate pictures on their Facebook page? This concept that you can lose your job for offenses that are less severe than a shooting spree isn't actually unique to the NFL.

  • kza

    The NFL isn't like other jobs. Fans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the sport, they shouldn't be punished. When his contract is up and no team will sign him because he's a horrible person, that's when he gets his.

  • Ken

    Kza, you have it wrong. As long as he can play, he will be employed. Unfortunately the character of an individual doesnt mean much in professional sports. If he can win, someone will take a chance on him.

  • Melissa

    Besides, players come and go. People are fans of teams. The fans are there to support the Steelers, not to support Roethlisberger. Would you want a serial rapist to be one of the most famous representatives of your city? Yeah, I wouldn't either.
    Basically...I know there are some Steelers fans who would disagree, but I bet a lot of them would prefer to NOT have him there, sullying their team's good name.

  • squirrely girl

    kza - So why should the NFL punish ANY behavior for that matter? If the NFL is SO different, why don't we just skip a few steps, drop ALL standards, and just recruit from among violent incarcerated psychopaths?

    Maybe because ANY organization has a social responsibility to not facilitate or encourage certain behaviors by turning a blind eye. Some people, particularly those with lower levels of moral reasoning, only learn when you take something away from them.

  • kza

    I don't care who is on the field, unless they are in jail, put him in the game. The NFL should punish players who break the rules of the game on the field. They are not a law enforcement agency. You know who should punish Ben? Law enforcement agencies. The NFL routinely suspends players who haven't even been charged with crimes. Do I like Ben? No. Would I want him on my team? No. Do I think he should be a free man if he did in fact rape or sexually assault someone? No. Should a person who has never been so much as charged with a crime be able to play? Yes. His team could choose not to play him or cut him whatever. The league has no business suspending him.

  • Stewart

    I'm sorry Amanda but did you actually listen to this piece? Where did Deford say that "we should turn sexual predators into role models"? What he actually did was question why professional athletes seem to be the only people that get stuck with the "role model" label. It's a great question and asking it does not require sanctioning either what Roethlisberger did or the awful conduct of any number of other athletes.
    And Deford did not say or imply that football was more important than stopping rape. What he did was question whether suspending Roethlisberger was going to teach anyone else a lesson. I think he has a point. I doubt that the men who think there is nothing wrong with having sexual contact with a woman who is so drunk she can't walk straight will now straighten up and fly right just because an NFL player has to sit out a few games. The message of the Roethlisberger suspension was not "don't sexually assault women"; it was "don't embarrass the NFL."

  • Stewart

    And for what it's worth, I think Roethlisberger should have been suspended; not because it will teach anyone else a lesson but because it will teach him a lesson.

  • Kit-Kat

    Here's one of NPR's own responding to the Deford commentary: