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Published: Tuesday, 4/27/2010

Ben Roethlisberger issues statement expressing his regrets

BY DAN MAJORS
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

PITTSBURGH - His public image in tatters, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday he would not appeal his NFL suspension and contritely promised to "comply with what is asked of me - and more."

In a three-paragraph statement released by the team, the Findlay native took responsibility for his behavior, acknowledged disappointing his family, and apologized to his teammates and fans.

"The commissioner's decision to suspend me speaks clearly that more is expected of me," the statement said. "I am accountable for the consequences of my actions. Though I have committed no crime, I regret that I have fallen short of the values instilled in me by my family. I will not appeal the suspension and will comply with what is asked of me - and more.

"Missing games will be devastating for me. I am sorry to let down my teammates and the entire Steelers fan base. I am disappointed that I have reached this point, and will not put myself in this situation again.

"I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given in my life and will make the necessary improvements."

Neither the Steelers nor Roethlisberger would comment on the statement, but experts in sports management and public relations said they saw it as an important step in the quarterback's attempt to rebuild his image.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week suspended Roethlisberger for the first four to six games of the coming season for behavior that, he said, violated the league's personal conduct policy.

Roethlisberger, 28, was accused by a 20-year-old college student of sexually assaulting her in the bathroom of a nightclub last month in Milledgeville, Ga. The district attorney there, however, announced he would not press charges because there was not enough evidence to prove that a crime was committed.

Attorneys for Roethlisberger consistently said he had committed no crime, but his actions brought him tremendous scrutiny and scorn.

"I think Roethlisberger is responding as well as he can under the circumstances," said Gene Grabowski, a senior vice president with Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington-based firm that specializes in crisis communications.

"So far, it meets the test. I think people will accept it. I think the fans want to forgive him. But, of course, he has to stay out of hot water. He should avoid bars and parties for a good long while."

Mr. Grabowski conceded that Roethlisberger's motivation is "to shorten his suspension," but that doesn't mean he hasn't learned his lesson.

Ralph Cindrich, a Pittsburgh-area attorney and sports agent, said the short statement "hit all the points he had to hit."

"Hopefully, it didn't come from a PR person and comes from his heart," Mr. Cindrich said. "Most of us are forgiving people and … want to see someone turn his life around."

The fact the statement does not acknowledge any wrongdoing, Mr. Cindrich said, might be a means of protecting Roethlisberger from any lawsuit the woman in Georgia might decide to file.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dan Majors is a staff writer at the Post-Gazette.

Contact Dan Majors at:

dmajors@post-gazette.com



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