Quite the ethical conundrum we have here, isn’t it, Pittsburgh?
You, too, Boston.
Especially you, NFL.
What’s it going to be? Are your moral compasses going to be guided by your senses of right and wrong?
Or the logo involved?
That’s what has been brought into play with the latest, most significant, most unfortunate Antonio Brown headline.
The former Pittsburgh Steeler, Oakland Raider, and current New England Patriot has been accused of rape. The New York Times reports the civil lawsuit has been filed by his former trainer in a federal court Tuesday.
Even before this news came out, it would’ve been tough to find a more hated person in all of Pittsburgh.
That hatred was just about football-related matters, though.
Given the heinous nature of this alleged incident — and the details filed within the lawsuit — it’d be all the easier for us in Western Pa. to attack Brown with even more venom.
Vilify him. Convict him. Assume the worst. Forget innocent until proven guilty.
“He’s been a jerk for years. C’mon, he must’ve done it.”
That’d be the easy thing to do.
Until we go back 10 years and realize that when people were saying the same thing about Ben Roethlisberger following the first of two sexual assault allegations against him, Pittsburgh defended him vociferously.
There was almost a race between the media outlets to see who could acquit him in the public eye first.
In the end, Roethlisberger didn’t need to be acquitted. Because he was never charged by a prosecutor.
In either case.
That didn’t matter in New England. Or in some other rival markets. Where he was called “Rapistberger” and other such nicknames.
I worked at WEEI Radio in Boston for a little more than a year. During the 2014 NFL season. When Deflategate broke. And the Aaron Hernandez trial was going on.
If I said something critical about the Patriots regarding those issues, or Spygate, or even if they just played badly on a given Sunday, the tweets came in. The phone calls. The texts.
“Go back to Pittsburgh. Your quarterback raped two girls.”
A totally relevant response, of course.
For some in that region, the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t seem to matter when it came to Roethlisberger. For many of that same segment of the population, “innocent until proven guilty” sure did matter about the PSI of footballs, though.
Along those same lines, this wasn’t talked about very much when Roethlisberger’s name came up.
Back in 2011, the #Patriots acquired Albert Haynesworth despite the fact that he was facing a sexual assault charge. When asked about Haynesworth's troubled past back then, here's what Bill Belichick had to say. pic.twitter.com/rinjQO57c0
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) September 11, 2019
Weird, huh? We can get awfully selective in our judgments, eh?
I wonder what the reaction will be in New England now. They don’t care too much about Brown as a player or person yet. He’s only been there about 10 minutes.
It’ll probably be less about, “People are out to get A.B.” And more about, “People are out to get the Patriots again!”
That would be the most consistent reaction from the Patriots’ “they hate us, cuz they ain’t us” crowd.
I wonder what the reaction will be on Park Avenue at the NFL offices, too. They suspended Roethlisberger for four games in 2010 without a conviction or even a prosecutor pressing charges.
What will they do now with Brown?
Honestly, they should do what they didn’t do with Roethlisberger. Let the court proceedings play out before they suspend him. At least, in the absence of anything but he said-she said accusations, they should do a more legitimate investigation into Brown’s case than they did in Roethlisberger’s before making a decision.
Again, that’s what they should do.
From the Patriots regarding Antonio Brown pic.twitter.com/eb0Ts68ku3
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) September 11, 2019
What will the NFL do? Probably whatever Twitter tells them to do. That seems to be the usual course of action these days.
Unfortunately for Twitter, past precedent for the league on punishment for off-field situations is too scattered to keep straight. And for a global outlet, Twitter is as provincial as you can get.
“I’ll attack your team’s guy, but I’ll defend my team’s guy.”
Those reactions would be predictable in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Oakland. I have no idea what to expect from league commissioner Roger Goodell.
I’ve come to expect stories like these in the sports world. I’ve also come to expect that we will react to them based on what is the most convenient way to rationalize the news.
That convenience is usually based on our zip codes and the jerseys hanging in our closets.