Ben Roethlisberger Is Hall of Fame Bound. Should He Be?

Roethlisberger's legacy as a football player may be pristine, but should his record off the field also be taken into account?

Ben Roethlisberger leads his team onto the field before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs
Ben Roethlisberger leads his team onto the field before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty

To go along with 165 regular-season wins as a starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a ranking in the top 10 in nearly every major NFL career passing category, future Pro Football Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger has a pair of Super Bowl wins.

Roethlisberger, who announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday after 18 seasons, also has a par of sexual assault allegations on his Hall-of-Fame résumé that might keep him out of Cooperstown if he were a baseball player.

Relevant or not to Hall-of-Fame candidacy, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America asks voters to take a player’s character into account while weighing if the player is an all-time great or not. “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played,” according to the BBWAA’s voting rules.

The two-time champ’s record, playing ability and contributions to his team throughout his career are beyond reproach, but his character and by extension his integrity have to be viewed more skeptically.

Though the 39-year-old was never prosecuted in either of his sexual assault cases, he did settle one outside of court. The other, which was dropped when the local district attorney in Georgia declined to pursue criminal charges citing a lack of evidence, led to the police officer who first interviewed Roethlisberger and his accuser resigning from the force.

“We have a problem. This drunken bitch, drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape,” Sgt. Jerry Blash, who posed for pictures with Roethlisberger the night he was accused of rape in 2010, allegedly said following the accusation. “This pisses me off. Women can do this. It’s [bull], but we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do a report. This is BS. She’s making [stuff] up.”

Always adamant that he was innocent and now a twice-baptized born again Christian with a wife and three children, Roethlisberger nonetheless became the first player to be suspended by the NFL under the league’s personal conduct policy without having been charged with a crime after a league investigation determined there was sufficient evidence for discipline. Roethlisberger’s suspension was for six games, which was later reduced to four.

“The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time. “You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league and everyone associated with the NFL.”

Bad behavior. Bad judgment. Bad teammate. Sounds like someone who has poor character and a lack of integrity.

Roethlisberger’s past won’t keep him out of Canton and it may not really have been enough to keep him out of Cooperstown given some of the questionable characters who have plaques on the wall in Upstate New York. Luckily for Roethlisberger, he doesn’t have to find out.

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