When it comes to the sexual assault allegations against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the key moment will occur when prosecutors decide whether to pursue formal charges. (Technically, an indictment from a grand jury will be the tipping point, but there’s a ham sandwich in my fridge that knows any indictment can be obtained if the prosecutor truly wants it.)
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, even if Roethlisberger isn’t charged, he could be compelled by the league to undergo a clinical evaluation.
In our view, the applicable term should be something stronger than “could.” The Personal Conduct Policy states that persons “arrested, charged or otherwise appearing to have engaged in conduct prohibited under this policy will be required to undergo a formal clinical evaluation.” Even if authorities in Georgia decide that insufficient evidence exists to convict Roethlisberger beyond a reasonable doubt, the mere making of the criminal complaint fits the “otherwise appearing” language.
If Roethlisberger is charged, Bouchette reports that the team and/or the league “can dole out immediate discipline,” even without a conviction. In our view, however, the Personal Conduct Policy empowers only the league to discipline a player for criminal misconduct. That said, look for the team and the league to work closely together in an effort to determine the appropriate sanction.
A key factor in this regard will be the outcome of the investigation that NFL Security undoubtedly is conducting. If NFL Security believes that the claim against Roethlisberger has merit, there’s a chance that an indictment will result in the same indefinite suspension that was imposed on Mike Vick once he was indicted on federal conspiracy charges relating to dogfighting and gambling.