Peter King started a storm in his Monday Morning Quarterback article about Roger Goodell, when he quoted the commissioner in regard to Ben Roethlisberger as saying that he talked to “I bet two dozen Steelers players . . . Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn’t personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, ‘He won’t sign my jersey’.”
Dan Wetzel wrote an article late yesterday questioning why Goodell would re-open this issue now. He quotes Ben Roethlisberger as saying he knows “for a fact” that some teammates supported him. Brett Keisel also came to Ben Roethlisberger’s defense, saying he has Ben’s back.
Wetzel went on to question why the commissioner would reveal inside details of an internal investigation. From Wetzel: “If he’s going to ask for teammates to participate in investigations, he can’t go defying that trust by passing along what they said. Things are either anonymous or not, you can’t be a little bit pregnant on that.”
After Wetzel’s column ran on Monday evening, Peter King issued a “clarification” posted after 10 pm saying that the commissioner had not specifically said Steelers players (the quote in the Monday Morning Quarterback article now reads “I bet two dozen players . . .”), and that inserting the word Steelers was an incorrect assumption on his part.
Setting aside that embarrassing turn of circumstances–I’m guessing King will not be sharing a coffee with Roger at Jerry World–I’m not sure that the clarification actually makes it any better. Many of Wetzel’s criticisms are still present. If you are going to be “judge, jury and executioner”, you can’t be revealing information about what players tell you in confidence as part of an investigation. What purpose does it serve? To take shots at player disunity during a labor negotiation?
Worse, I’ve always been uneasy about the commissioner’s power in unilaterally determining punishment. I know it’s a private business, but the principal of due process and checks and balances are decent ideals. If you are going to interview players behind closed doors, it should stay there. He has now revealed that part of his assessment was talking to dozens of players who didn’t like Ben Roethlisberger because he didn’t sign their jersey; that should cause some concern.
How does that matter in how long a suspension should be? It isn’t relevant. Ask about the incident, ask about his behavior in similar settings from people who know. Don’t ask if players like him, because we’ve seen they can be a judgmental bunch. Jay Cutler better hope that he never has to be disciplined by Goodell for anything. He may get the death penalty after the commissioner asks around.
[photo via Getty]