The League


Should We Be Covering Big Ben Now?

How should the media cover Ben Roethlisberger's civil suit at this early stage?

Posted by Emil Steiner on July 22, 2009 6:43 AM

tniederberger: One name to mention: "Kobie Bryant", Ben should get the same treatment and accorded the same assumption of guilt cause big bad boys always g...

teedub: I love (as in I really hate) how this panel is composed entirely of men. It's almost as if WaPo thinks there aren't any women journalists th...

Dermitt: Covered in what? ...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (51)

alex35332 Author Profile Page :

The line between coverage and a witch hunt is already blurred. The problem with coverage of these allegations is that coverage of this story will be impossible without bias.

spro Author Profile Page :

This lawsuit deserves no additional coverage after the initial story, until it is settled or dismissed. If the woman had filed criminal rape charges, that would be a different case. But, as it is, I just do not want to hear about this lawsuit.

niceday971 Author Profile Page :

Why do they have to talk about a civil suit that just got filed? Or they going to name the woman in the suit? It simply unfair to drag the allegations on over and over again. Why? Name the woman, then if the suit falls apart there will be some justice. Or if the suit is successful then you can throw all the mud you want on him because he will have deserved it. But not until the end of the case.

dcborn61 Author Profile Page :

It is news that the Super Bowl champion quarterback has been charged in a public lawsuit with sexual assault and a corporation like Harrahs has its employees sued for covering up the alleged incident. For ESPN to trot out "policy" that tries to tie police activity or the subject of the lawsuit commenting as a requirement for coverage is both a bald-face lie and cowardice.

rucks35 Author Profile Page :

The media needs to cover the story but also be cognizant of the fact that defense lawyers use the media to turn public opinion against potential sexual assault victims. One of the flaws in our justice system is the rule that allows attorneys to shape public opinion on a case through the media. This is especially detrimental when it involves a sexual assault case involving a famous athlete. These stories are guaranteed to get significant coverage by the media and defense lawyers know this. Thus, they manipulate the facts to their advantage. I would advise any outlet covering this story to determine the facts for themselves, not depending on a complaint carefully crafted by attorneys or the words of the attorneys themselves. A good story would merely report that a complaint is out there, what the legal elements involved are, and the actions both sides are taking. Everything said by attorneys should be taken with a grain of salt.

warhmr Author Profile Page :

ESPN has covered the event. Go to:

to see ESPNs news story.

epmitchell Author Profile Page :

The media should give him as much coverage as they did about Michael Vick and his dogs

ntilzha Author Profile Page :

You've reported that the suit has been filed (a year after the alleged event), and there are no criminal charges being filed. Drop it until there's something new to report.

blinwilly Author Profile Page :

Not all alegations of sexual assault are true. Look at what happened in Durham NC. It's not hard to make something out of nothing in our legal system. Let the facts play out before you decide someone's guilt or innocense

Beingsensible Author Profile Page :

So the QB for the Super Bowl Championship team is being accused of sexual assault and we hear about it in a footnote asking if you should cover it...hum, interesting; wasn't it not so long ago that Kobe was accused of sexual assault and that was the front page news for at least 6 months...interesting...just interesting...really!

theintrepidone Author Profile Page :

Early stages my aunt Sally!

If this were Donovan McNabb, or even Jason Campbell, the media would be all over him from jumpstreet, and everyone knows it.
Case closed.

blessinggirl Author Profile Page :

I'm sorry to say, but I seriously doubt whether there will be any coverage of Ben nearing that of Kobe Bryant. He will be given the benefit of the doubt and not assumed to be a racist. Don't forget, media profiles black athletes as criminals at the slightest hint of an allegation. White athletes are not treated that way.

theintrepidone Author Profile Page :

Early stages my aunt Sally!

If this were Donovan McNabb, or even Jason Campbell, the media would be all over him from jumpstreet, and everyone knows it.
Case closed.

LiberalBasher Author Profile Page :

Beingsensible :
So the QB for the Super Bowl Championship team is being accused of sexual assault and we hear about it in a footnote asking if you should cover it...hum, interesting; wasn't it not so long ago that Kobe was accused of sexual assault and that was the front page news for at least 6 months...interesting...just interesting...really!
As much as I hate kobe Bryant, I think he was dragged through the mud by a gold digger. The coverage that occured should not have occured against the cry baby. The woman shouldn't have received the payout.

you happy cry baby?

LizGinMD Author Profile Page :

I think the Post's characterization of alleged sexual assault as Roethlisberger's "follies" speaks volumes about the sexism still rampant in the media. Sexual assault is not something to be trivialized.

kguy1 Author Profile Page :

The two most relevant things about this situation are the long lapse in time between the events in question and the suit, and the fact that only civil and not criminal charges were brought. Considering that the bar for judgement is much lower in civil cases- "preponderance of the evidence" vs "beyond a reasonable doubt" (remember the OJ trials)- this has more the appearance of a money grab than anything else. Comparisons to Vick are not valid. He was criminally charged, which means that several people- prosecutor, grand jury, etc.- thought there was sufficient evidence to justify a trial. Anybody can bring a civil suit whether they have a case or not. Expect to see the character and credibility of the accuser attacked just like in the Kobe case in Colorado.

trambusto Author Profile Page :

I think he should come out of the closet. Then the woman wouldn't have a case.

It's so annoying when women make claims that can't be disproven, and people automatically side with them as victims based solely on their word and no other evidence.

Maybe she assaulted him!

RaymondMartin1 Author Profile Page :

I really hate to play the race card, but when Mike Tyson was "accused", it was all over the media. So why not...?

surlydoc Author Profile Page :

i'm no big ben fan. i think he's dumb as a board. but when someone waits an entire year to sue somebody it smells pretty fishy. if she waits that long to do something this important, can you imagine what her personal hygiene might be like?
like i say, "it smells pretty fishy".

oh, and for you reverse racists out there:
a lot of us white people thought kobe was unjustly accused, and personally i thought the tramp that accused mike tyson and got him sent away was full of crap. you black people need to get a grip on this type of stuff. oh, and can somewbody explain to me what "jumpstreet" means??

Garak Author Profile Page :

The public has every right to know all the details of Roethlisberger's lawsuit. He works in a socialized industry. The public paid over 60 percent of the cost of $281 million dollar stadium, Hienz Field. If Roethlisberger wants privacy, he can work in private business.

jeiken Author Profile Page :

This story should be on the front section of the sports page, front and center. After what we just witnessed with the tragic death of Steve McNair, it once again reinforces that these stars in the NFL think they are invincible, and get do whatever they want with no consequences after. The McNair tragedy is not the same as Big Ben's alleged criminal act of sexual assault, but again these players think they can do whatever they want and there will be no one to answer to afterward. The McNair family will never be the same because of the unfortunate behavior of a husband and father, and the woman involved in this incident will never be the same if these allegations turn out to be true.

mendonsa Author Profile Page :

Anyone can bring a civil lawsuit against anyone at anytime. If this were a charge brought by law enforcement agency I would have no problem about full publication. That the distinct possibility exists that it maybe a frivolous or negatively motivated action should give pause to proceed further in reporting other than to mention that a suit has been filed. Innuendo and gossip is not pleasurable (on many levels) either to the defendant or plaintiff. This is a private rather than public matter and should remain so until the suit has run its course.
And, I dont like the Steelers.

BigSmooov Author Profile Page :

It's funny how the white athletes don't get the negative coverage that the black athletes get. They do just as much dirt as the black athletes.

What's good for the goose is good for the duck also!!!!

dcfilmindustryexaminer Author Profile Page :

i don't know much about football, but they're shouldn't be disporportionate coverage of something until the person is convicted. people can be ruined from the bad publicity of the trial, alone. i think media and the general public should abide by the innocent until proven guilty motto

kellyanna7 Author Profile Page :

@trambusto, first of all a woman cannot rape a man. It's just not possible and your whole tone stinks of sexism.

Secondly, I really resent all this talk of her being a gold digger. We do not know the facts yet. From what I have read this football player invited her up to his room and then attacked her and then her employer put pressure on her not to talk. That is not a joke that is actually rape.

kiler616 Author Profile Page :

I'm not much for sports ,so i don't even know where ESPN is on my TV remote....but isn't that where that sexy babe that was videotaped naked works?

moemongo Author Profile Page :

Why don't we wait until the authorities get involved and comment on the case. It is not like we are talking about a serial criminal.

dwilcox2 Author Profile Page :

Let us discuss the "pink elephant" in the room. If Jason Campbell had the same allegations would it be covered? I would bet my life on it and say yes! The media is no less racist at times than the KKK members in the Deep South. I mean do you watch the news, and/or read the papers?

Bottom line is if he pays her one penny he is guilty. If I was Ben I would spend every last dime I had on lawyers defending my innocence (if in fact I was innocent). The man deserves a fair trial just like every other American. Why cover allegations of Kobe for weeks and weeks, but don't cover "Big Ben"........well there is just one answer people, racism!

Deal with the fact that we as a country have created a media that is bias and racist. Every one of us has played a role by supporting the news they report in the manner they report it.

rickooski Author Profile Page :

The story deserves some initial coverage and then it needs to go away until the trial starts and plays out. Despite how easy it is to side against the "cocky athlete," or the "crazy fan who just wants money;" we still live in a land where the constitution reigns supreme (even though most people don't see it that way any more), which means everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

ILuvUS Author Profile Page :

Amazing how different we think when it is a Ben Roethlisberger versus a Kobe Bryant.

dwilcox2 Author Profile Page :

I find it interesting that some people (black, white, yellow, or orange)do not understand/see that this is still a country filled with racism. I am not saying anyone here is racist by any means, but it does exist in every day life. Why would it be so unrealistic to think the media as a whole isn't race driven?

What sells? Sex, black-on-black crime, black-on-white crime, and any type of middle eastern person doing anything wrong. We created the media monster, the question is now that the demon is at full strength how do we band together as a country and cut the head off this beast?

MOE1960 Author Profile Page :

In this case, media outlets could devote an equal amount of coverage to the alleged victim AND the alleged rapist. What's her story? Background? Why did she wait to tell anyone about the alleged attack? What are her motivations? By not reporting the alleged incident to the police (and prosecutor) so that criminal charges could be filed against her alleged attacker, she does not deserve "media blackout" of her name, image, etc ... Investigate her. Subject her to the same microscope that Ben finds himself under. Equal treatment, please.

kshell1 Author Profile Page :

Whether or not she filed criminal charges is irrelevant to a civil suit. Many rape victims do not go to the police and her reasons strike true. That the media is referring to her as the "accuser" (which is done for no other crime than rape) is testament enough to the bias in law and language against women who have been assaulted, especially by famous, powerful men. That being said, until the evidence is revealed, we do not know what happened here. If the media ignores it, they do a disservice to women; if they hype it they do a disservice to their readers. Normal journalistic standards should apply. It should be covered as a regular news story, not as the story of the day or week.

rinny_1983 Author Profile Page :

it was all over news about mike vick dog fight scandal... are you tellin me that a womans alledged sexual assault is not as important! what a jacked up country this is

GeorgeHayduke Author Profile Page :

Of course it's news worthy. The question is to what degree. Mine opinion would be - not very much more than what has already occurred. The fact that Disney/ESPN avoided the story is more of a story.

leetn Author Profile Page :

Is this the media can come up w/- Big Ben sexual escapades? How about exposing replubican scared tactics, scared democrates, health care reform, who's funding these republicans that are opposed to everything Obama's trying to do, Wall St's fleecing of American. The media is becoming a JOKE. US media is quickly becoming Britain's tabloid news.

help4mac Author Profile Page :

A civil lawsuit is not newsworthy unless 1) it is accompanied by a criminal charge and/or 2) the complainant is named.

In this case it is ridiculous. Let's move on!

midnightladyNC Author Profile Page :

We think nothing of destroying lives and reputations in the media. While this man may be considered a "public" figure he also has not been convicted. If he is then without fail the media can and will write about his escapades. We do not need to trash the plaintiff or the defendant in the media.

blkisin Author Profile Page :

The media reports every aspect of a black sport figure life down to the type of underwear they wear, the story reached the AP before they are even offically charge with something. But when if come to the good hard working white folk and their idles its hand off, lets wait and see, he made a mistake, lets forgive him.... Come on white folks you can't have it both ways I personally like Ben but fair game is fair game...Drag the B#### thru the mud.

theodoreirving Author Profile Page :

This is a no-brainer. Big Ben is not Kobe Bryant and Micheal Vick. It is a mandate of the media to treat allegations of this athlete different that of the forementioned. Why do you ask. Well, it is simply because the white players transgressions are simply accepted differently than that of a black player.

The media was all over the allegations of Bryant and Vick before they went to trial. The media is being encourared to minimize allegations against a white superstar while elevating those of a black superstar to the ar extreme. This is nothing new and those assigning staff to cover the story know fully they are complicit in the way they handle these matters.

sfchand Author Profile Page :

Let me see - on ESPN - which I believe is supposed to be sports coverage - we get several minutes every day on a pitcher NOT being traded - we get Favre every day no matter what he does or doesn't do. We get Mike Vick every day because he MIGHT visit with the commissioner - some day. They cover a whole baseball game in 40 seconds so they can get to some football guy spouting an opinion about whether or not Vick will be any good when he gets back. It's turned into tabloid, personality-cult gossip, plain and simple - with a few scores thrown in.
As far as the racial comments - hmmm - there was a swimmer with a bong that we all heard more about than we ever cared to. I don't think it's race - they pretty much toast everybody, as far as I can see. Maybe some they go after a little more. If you remember back a few years we heard more about Pete Rose than anybody ever needed to know. Things about his private life. I think the people who come off as self-centered to the reporters - or maybe just arrogant - get a little more lambasted. Reporters are human and get tired of rich spoiled kids' arrogance. Maybe Ben isn't so arrogant. But you can count on this. If Ben - or anybody - loudly claims one thing - and then the opposite is proven true - they will go after him mercilessly. Hypocrisy is such an easy target.

amr2 Author Profile Page :

The woman making these allegations took a year to make them and then never filed a formal criminal complaint. Innocent until proven guilty.

knhNEK Author Profile Page :

sexual assault is a "folly?" You say this man has been accused of sexual assault, and ask if the media should cover his "follies."

Boys will be boys, eh? A little rough fun with the was just "folly." Too bad she didn't realize she was supposed to laugh.....

gogmu012 Author Profile Page :

Just another reason to hate Pittsburg and the Steelers.

bucinka8 Author Profile Page :

Depends on whom one considers "we." Certainly it's big news in Pittsburgh and should be covered; less so in Baltimore, where he shows up once a year for work. Even less in places he and the Steelers have nothing to do with. I myself wasn't paying attention to the story at all until you guys brought it up. Until he's convicted, I don't really care...same as it was for me with Michael Vick.

gogmu012 Author Profile Page :

If Big Ben was black, you can be rest assured that the media would have a field day with it and R.Godell would have suspended him already.

bucinka8 Author Profile Page :

@trambusto, first of all a woman cannot rape a man. It's just not possible and your whole tone stinks of sexism.
@kellyanna7: Not to get off the topic, but first of all, trambusto said assaulted, not raped; second, women certainly can rape men. It's rare, to be sure, but it can happen. I imagine most men who were so assaulted would be humilated to report it, so we don't hear about it that often.

If you think there needs to be a penetrative object involved for it to be rape, imagine her hand holding any one of a multitude of objects (a shotgun, a baseball bat...). If he doesn't want sex, and someone, anyone, forces it on him, that's rape.

What trambusto's comment reeks of is homophobia, not sexism.

observer9 Author Profile Page :

The Steelers already had a black accused rapist. His name is Jerome Bettis, and the charges against him were proven false. That's because the accuser's brother (I'm not making this up) was a college teacher, and explained to his class one year earlier how a pro athlete could be set up. His scenario was so similar to what his sister did it became evident she was lying. The accuser's case fell apart.

I don't know whether Roethlisberger did what this woman says he did, but how can he prove she's lying (if she is)? She makes the charges one year later, with not one microbe of physical evidence or any other evidence - other than her word - that links him to anything. That's Kafkaesque. The most persuasive part of her legal brief is that the actions of Harrah's employees seem to indicate a coverup, and you should never be convicted of anything because people you don't even know are acting suspiciously. It should be about you - and evidence. And there is not a shard of direct evidence. Period.

This story should be handled very carefully...if at all.

tniederberger Author Profile Page :

One name to mention: "Kobie Bryant", Ben should get the same treatment and accorded the same assumption of guilt cause big bad boys always get their way with women.

teedub Author Profile Page :

I love (as in I really hate) how this panel is composed entirely of men. It's almost as if WaPo thinks there aren't any women journalists that would have something useful to to contribute to a panel on rape. Something different than their male counterparts. Perhaps it wasn't that they considered and then rejected women panelist, but didn't even think to include one in the first place. It's not like we're 50% of the population or anything nor the victims of rape, not the perpetrators (ie men). Sexism and misogyny are alive and well.

Dermitt Author Profile Page :

Covered in what?

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