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Demonstration shows some unhappy about Roethlisberger's return

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By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010

Wearing black hoodies and yellow facemasks, a group protesting Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger's return set up camp near Heinz Field's main entrance holding their own tailgate party including veggie burgers and cookies. An eight-piece band joined the group at the stadium along with a demonstrator dressed as a Ninja.

"Stop Supporting Rapists" read one of their handmade signs. "Don't Let Ben Rape Again," read another.

The demonstration brought taunts from some Steeler fans and verbal confrontations, laced with expletives, were frequent. Police and security personnel watch from a distance, but never had to intervene. Many passersby on their way to the stadium stopped and took pictures.

At one point Steelers' fans unfurled their own professionally-made banner offering Roethlisberger a "welcome back."

"Take of your masks. Why are you hiding your faces," yelled one Steeler fan.

Alecia Ott of Garfield, who didn't wear as mask and acted as a spokeswoman for the group, said some of the demonstrators were fearful of becoming targets if they were identified.

"It's for safety reasons," she said.

Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in Georgia but authorities there declined to prosecute. He was suspended for the first four games of the season, returning today againt the Cleveland Browns.

Roethlisberger also faces a yet-unresolved accusation of an unwanted sexual advance at a golf outing in Nevada in 2008.

"We don't care whether he was charged or not," she said, adding that the purpose of the demonstration was to get fans to at least think of the issues of what she called predatory sexual behavior.

"It's unfortunate it turned into a spectacle," she said, adding that Roethlisberger's return was "shameful to the Steeler's nation. We are Steelers fans."

Ott and others attempted to handout a flyer charging the Steelers with giving an "indirect endorsement" to sexual assault by allowing Roethlisberger to return. Other players have been "traded for lesser offenses," the flyer states.

Most Steelers fans refused to even look at the flyers, but the demonstrators did get yells of support from a handful of Cleveland Browns fans.

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