Let’s ask a pointed question, shall we? What’s more important to you, weed or women?
What would make you more angry? The story of a guy who got high when he should have known better? Or the story of a guy who hit a woman? Or a guy who may have even sexually assaulted a woman?
Maybe it’s me, because I grew up the only child of a single mother. But I know what would get my blood boiling faster. I’m asking you this question because it’s 2016, and many of you are maligning a possible recreational drug user more than we’ve ever vilified a possible rapist and an admitted batterer.
Welcome to a world of skewed priorities.
Le’Veon Bell is currently in the midst of appealing a 4-game suspension for failing a drug test. We’re still not totally clear on whether Bell missed the test, tested positive for a banned substance, or possibly didn’t even know he had an examiner looking for him. Given the dishonesty coming from Bell regarding “the whole situation,” as he repeatedly referred to it Thursday evening, the benefit of the doubt account belonging to him has long been tapped dry and any checks attempting to be cashed against it will bounce like a presidential candidate’s poll numbers post-convention. Taking Le’Veon Bell at his word is damn near impossible to do at this point. If you want to cast aside any reasonable doubt and convict him here and now, it’s a popular sentiment to tag along with. He was in the program, promised he’d never let down his fans and teammates and the organization like this ever again, knew he’d be tested, and still somehow managed to foul it up anyway, or so goes the conventional wisdom. And if you choose to look at it that way, far be it from me to sit here and suggest you give a benefit of the doubt you may not be willing to give.
But let’s reexamine what you ARE willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt for.
Six years ago this summer, Ben Roethlisberger – just 4 years removed from a helmet-less motorcycle adventure down Second Avenue, and no less than 9 months after being accused of rape in Reno, NV – was accused of sexual assault again in Milledgeville, GA. Details came out, a District Attorney told Roethlisberger to ‘grow up,’ intimating that if he had a more secure case he would’ve pressed charges, and everyone moved on.
Fans, media, and some others around the country who refuse to grant the benefit of the doubt to an accuser in such a case, felt the need to wait and gather all the facts before they judged Roethlisberger. And to this day there are still geniuses in the Pittsburgh media who feel like the lack of charges against Roethlisberger somehow proves that he did nothing wrong. Over the 6-plus years since those allegations, Roethlisberger, as District Attorney Fred Bright suggested, has “grown up,” and seemingly set his life straight. He’s married with three children, and never again have we heard an ill word about him, let alone another accusation like the ones in Milledgeville or Reno. Roethlisberger got the benefit of the doubt from many, and continues to get it.
The easy, knee-jerk reaction would be to assume that some fans cut Ben slack that they don’t give Le’Veon because one is white and one is black. But I don’t know if that’s the case. After all, two years before Big Ben nearly went to trial for letting Little Ben run amok, James Harrison was going nearly full Biggie in kicking down the door to his girlfriend’s bedroom and physically assaulting her. Steelers’ Owner Dan Rooney defended him, saying that he was “just trying to get his son baptized,” and charges were dropped. Harrison was given the benefit of the doubt, despite admitting guilt. He continues to get that benefit of the doubt to this day, because he “learned from his mistakes,” as he put it six years later.
Harrison, as you may have noticed, is a black man.
So if it’s not a race issue, what is it? What’s the common thread that gives some people a blasé attitude toward what Roethlisberger may have done and what Harrison admittedly did – assaulting women, as compared to what Bell may have done – smoked some weed?
Perhaps it’s the same thread that’s currently running through the assessment of a rape accusation levied against Pirates’ third baseman Jung Ho Kang by a Chicago woman.
We simply don’t give a woman the benefit of the doubt.
Roethlisberger spent his first half-decade as a Steeler acting like a moron and twice being accused of rape.
Harrison admittedly beat the mother of his children.
Kang may have drugged a woman and assaulted her as she was blacked out. We honestly don’t know.
Yet they all have received the benefit of the doubt from most fans and most of the media. But Bell receives no such benefit of the doubt. And the best people could come up with when I discussed this on the air last night was “Well, he has a track record.”
So did Roethlisberger.
Perhaps if Bell had smacked a woman or dragged a drunk girl into a bathroom and locked the door behind him, or gone full Cosby on a young lady who came to his hotel room, you’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Me, I’m there already. I’ll save my anger toward Bell for when we find out exactly what happened, and even then, it won’t match the rage I felt toward Roethlisberger in 2010, Harrison before him, or possibly Kang when and if we find out what happened in Chicago.
Because I don’t care more about weed than women.