The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

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Nothing can stop the news media from reporting the details about the accusations against Big Ben. The news media is simply an extension of the public itself and our appetite for salacious details - however unfounded - knows few bounds. But we ought to take a lesson from the Duke Lacrosse case: be careful about jumping to conclusions before more facts are established.

The civil suit filed Monday, against Roethlisberger, alleges he sexually assaulted a waitress at Harrah's Casino in Lake Tahoe. These allegations include several unusual and even bizarre elements that give one pause before lumping Ben in with other athletes who've crossed the line.

o No criminal charges have been filed and there are no reports that there is even an investigation underway.

o The incident was alleged to have occurred more than a year ago.

o The accuser alleges several Harrah's security employees conspired to cover up the incident for fear of embarrassing the football players, the Casino's guest at a celebrity golf event. The affidavit suggests Harrah's employees even broke into the accuser's room to erase files from her computer.

Could this be true? Sure, it bears investigation by law enforcement so prosecutors can determine if the charges have any merit.

Should Ben be worried? Absolutely. We're a week away from the start of Steelers training camp and the reigning Super Bowl champs don't need a distraction like this, especially not during the slow summer months where every hamstring pull and blister gets overblown and over reported.

Ben's lawyer, David Cornwell, has already come forward with an unusually strong statement denying the allegations. Unfortunately, so many athletes have mishandled this moment in the past that it's worth noting that legal counselors don't often lead with such stark words as Cornwall's. "Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone... Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated."

The next few days are important. Ben should use this peacetime wisely, before the start of training camp, to huddle with his lawyer and other advisers. Like any high profile figure, he needs respected people around him (coaches, mentors, women) who can come forward to dispel these allegations and speak to his character. Even champions need champions and, in cases like this, it makes sense to have them speak on your behalf.

It may be a long time before this case enters a Court of Law, but the Court of Public Opinion is already in session.

By Jason Maloni  |  July 22, 2009; 12:27 PM ET  | Category:  Crime , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Great advice! He should surround himself with coaches, mentors, and .... ummm ... women!!!

Posted by: bgiann | July 23, 2009 9:05 AM

Could this be another Kobe Bryant story?

Posted by: Slapshot46 | July 24, 2009 12:33 AM

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