Why Does Nike Still Have Roethlisberger On Their Roster?

That is actually not Roethlisberger, but I thought this ad kind of said it all.
People were very quick to defend Ben Roethlisberger last year when he was accused of raping a woman in Lake Tahoe, but as Thomas noted over at the Yes, Means Yes blog, there seems to be a pattern emerging–there is another accusation of rape and then, another, and a whole lot of dirty police work. This situation is less than desirable with a rather potent mix of victim-blaming, celebrity and shoddy, misogynistic police work.
The NFL has even suspended him for 6 games to get his shit together, but Nike is still backing him?

On Wednesday, the NFL suspended him for six games and ordered him to “comprehensive behavioral counseling.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which has a done an admirable job of bringing the tawdry details to a troubled Steeler Nation, has editorialized about the “sting of betrayal” that fans feel, so much so that he may even be traded imminently. Even a local sponsor, the maker of Big Ben’s Beef Jerky, has dropped him, citing his recent behavior.
But Nike, the shoe-maker to the world, the biggest brand in the endorsement game, is standing by Roethlisberger — at least for the moment — just as they continue to back Tiger Woods after his serial infidelities.
For Nike, Roethlisberger has been used in commercials to sell the aptly named “Marauder” cleats. The company did not return my phone calls for comment, but in an e-mail earlier they said, “Ben continues to be part of the Nike roster of athletes.”

Similar to what NYTimes blogger Timothy Egan discussing how on the one hand Nike has done a lot to highlight woman athletes and then on the other sends the message that, “It’s O.K. for a buffoon of a man to disrespect women, so long as he continues to throw a football well.” And as long as it sells product, because what is a few rape accusations in the face of a bottom line.

Join the Conversation

  • NoticingTheGap

    What stuck with me in the NYT opinion piece was Nike’s reaction to Michael Vick’s dog fighting in comparison to Tiger Woods’/Kobe Bryant’s/Ben Roethlisberger’s conduct with women. Nike put out a statement against Vick’s “unacceptable” behavior, but have remained mum about the others.
    Some may argue that if Roethlisberger had been convicted of sexual assault Nike would have dropped him, but I’m not convinced.

  • Floyd_Fino

    What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  • NoticingTheGap

    Predictable. Yesterday when I linked to the NYT piece on my Facebook page, the very first comment I got was exactly that (innocent until proven guilty, right?).
    Right. The post does not suggest otherwise. It talks about rape accusations, disrespecting women, and tawdry details. It discusses the different reactions Nike has had to its athletes’ behavior toward women and dogs.

  • lucierohan

    But to be fair, Tigers Woods admitted he had affairs and Michael Vick pleaded guilty to the dog fighting charges.

  • Phenicks

    Wow. Tiger Woods made vows to ONE woman hisinfidelity has nothing to do with anyone other than his wife and the women who was apart of his adultery. Last I checked rape was never consensual the way all of Tiger Woods’ known affairs were. Cheating is not comparable to rape.

  • supremepizza

    I see a lot of supposition in the blogosphere, but unfortunately not a lot of evidence. Maybe its just ‘cuz I’m black but I’m sensitive to police & DAs railroading people. They can do it not only for racial reasons but also for personal or political ambitions. So far we have only the DA’s version of events.
    What gets me is that, absent evidence, the punditocracy is framing the issue in terms of Puritan standards: “Who has sex in a bathroom?” They say that, “he may not have raped her but he certainly disrespected her”. This is a patriarchal view that anytime people have sex in non-traditional places it disrespects woemn. Aside from the racial subtext this is not unlike the Kobe Bryant case. We may never know what happened.

  • Floyd_Fino

    Did you ever think that happened because some people realise that accusation isn’t proof and that guilt is determined by a court, not a forum on a blog.

  • davenj

    There is a difference here, though, and that’s the fact that Vick was found guilty of his behavior towards dogs.
    That doesn’t mean that this doesn’t demonstrate a pattern of Nike basically not caring about their athletes having sketchy sexual behavior in their personal lives, but there is little doubt that Vick actually getting convicted of what he was accused of is relevant to the discussion.
    There’s also the question of the degree to which we can even know that Roethlisberger’s behavior was disrespectful to women, given the lack of convictions in the two accusations. It’s certainly suspicious, but hardly definitive.
    However, Nike clearly should drop folks if they get convicted of sexual assault. But for accusations? I’m less sure. That seems more like a business issue than a moral issue.

  • puckalish

    you should really read the article at the Yes Means Yes blog to which Samhita linked… because it gives a nod to the question of whether a blogger should adhere to the same standards as a jury… and to some of the reasons why criminal charges have not yet been pursued (including the likely intentional botching of the second investigation by an officer who had his photo taken with Roethlisberger on the same day)…
    um, and PR is about perception… which is why Reebok, Upper Deck and Rawlings stopped selling Michael Vick-related merch before there was any guilty plea… which suggests that there’s more negative PR fallout to be had from being associated with an accused animal abuser than an accused rapist – which, to me, is even more of a negative statement on public sentiment than on Nike’s actions.
    oh, and never mind that Samhita never actually suggested Roethlisberger is “guilty.”

  • lucierohan

    I honestly couldn’t give a shit if Nike wants this guy’s name next to their product. They’ll hopefully dig their own grave with the decision.
    What does bother me is that this is the second rape complaint against this man and from what I’ve seen before, I can only guess that the cycle “victim-blaming, celebrity and shoddy, misogynistic police work” is going to begin again. I can’t even imagine the kind of treatment this woman is going to get, depending on whether or not she pressing charges. It’s all the inequities of the average rape case, only this time the accused has a lot more money, a much wider forum, and (going by similar cases) a legion of football fans willing to challenge the very CONCEPT of rape if it will help his case. Nike can go fuck themselves but their not my biggest concern.
    One more thing:
    “But Nike… is standing by Roethlisberger — at least for the moment — just as they continue to back Tiger Woods after his serial infidelities.”
    I did a double-take on this line. Just seeing those two side by side. Look, cheating on your spouse is bad. Rape is REALLY bad. Can we not try to equate these two things just because they both involve men treating women badly?

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    Um, doesn’t Nike still use sweatshops in Vietnam, Indonesia, and China?
    It’s not like we should expect any sort of ethical behavior out of them.

  • –bill

    Just out of curiosity–why a photoshopped ad for Jared Lorenzen accompanying this? I’m not clear on why that “kind of said it all”.

  • TG the wanderer

    One thing with which I’m pretty uncomfortable that often comes up in commentaries on this issue is the lumping of Roethlisberger with Tiger Woods (In this article: “just as they continue to back Tiger Woods after his serial infidelities”; similar themes often have appeared). Tiger Woods did cheat on his wife, which is unethical for interpersonal agreement and trust reasons, but he did not, as far as I know, rape anyone- he just had consensual sex with persons other than his committed partner. And it seems highly likely that Roethlisberger did commit rape, which is much, much, much more unethical than cheating on one’s significant other.
    Really, they are not the same thing at all. One is a serious breach of trust, and the other is a horrible act of violence and violation of personhood. Both are unethical, but grouping them together is a serious under-appreciation of the evilness of rape.
    I think we should encourage sensitivity about how rape is too often trivialized by being grouped in with other “sexual morality” issues, such as adultery, which, while unethical, are not on the same level as rape.

  • Jane

    i think this case is different. Rothlisberger has been suspended for 6 games without pay (let’s keep in mind that that’s extremely unusual for a case in which no charges were filed). read the documents on smoking gun – even ESPN commenters know that he has no leg to stand on. for pete’s sake, he’s won two super bowls and the steelers are thinking about trading him to the raiders for having fucked up so badly. the police officer who took the statement (and took pictures with rothlisberger) has resigned in humilation.
    seriously, as someone who follows the NFL religiously, this is being handled as the giant fucking deal that it (by the league, at least).

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    The ad had words on it too, not just pictures.

  • cattrack2

    Samhita didn’t suggest Roethlisberger was guilty but Thomas over at Yes Means Yes sure did:
    “I’m not a jury. Innocent until proven guilty is a rule for the finder of fact. I am a member of the public, and I write for a blog, and I call ‘em like I see ‘em. The way I see it, anyone who went out on a limb defending Roethlisberger [the 1st time] is either nervous about that cracking noise, or has thrown in full-on with the pro-rape lobby.”
    So now anyone who waits on evidence before drawing a conclusion is pro-rape? WTF??? Frankly what’s wrong with the blogosphere is that more blogs peddle in opinion than fact…At least Thomas is honest about his aversion to weighing evidence.

  • puckalish

    Reebok (and Nike, actually) dropped Vick in July, 2007, before he even plead “not guilty.” He didn’t change his plea to guilty until August. Unless some PR folks at Reebok, Nike, etc., have time machines or functional crystal balls, I’d say that your stated “difference” doesn’t really hold water.
    Now, if you want to argue that Nike was wrong to drop Vick before he plead guilty, that’s another story… but you can’t really argue that their treatment of the cases is in any way consistent.

  • puckalish

    it’s the text, –bill, not the player…

  • NapoleonInRags

    But those words make no sense at all in relation to the picture, which is of Giant’s QB Jared Lorenzen and have been photoshopped on to his picture from a different Nike ad campaign. I can’t tell what any of that has to do with big Ben..

  • Michelle J

    The truth is we may never know if he’s guilty or not. If he’s innocent, losing a contract he worked hard to earn and not being able to play 6 season games is pretty unfair. If he’s guilty, those punishments don’t even scratch the surface of what’s fair. Either way I could care less what Nike does, I’m more concerned with the actions of the police officers and prosecutors involved in the cases.
    Oh and I must agree, the comparison of rape and adultery is total fuckery.

  • lucierohan


  • Dawn.

    This is exactly what I was going to say. Nike is a shady-ass, routinely unethical company. I am not surprised that they continue to back Roethlisberger, despite his running tab of rape accusations and the fact that even ESPN knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • Sangha

    Sorry, but did I miss something? Did Tiger Woods rape someone? Was he ever accused of raping someone? Did Kobe Bryant rape someone?
    If not, then why did you lump them in with Ben?
    Committing adultery is not a crime in the US. It doesn’t matter how disgusting you think it is, the simple fact is that most of Nike customers don’t care. I am a Nike customer who doesn’t care what a athlete does in his or her personal life as long as it’s not criminal.
    And each time I see Ben linked with Woods and Bryant, I can’t help but think race has something to do with it.
    Innocent until proven guilty, as the Kobe case proved, is always right.

  • Sangha

    I may have posted too soon. I now see that you weren’t comparing Woods and Ben’s actions, but was talking about Nike’s reactions to it.

  • Sangha

    Agreed. It’s just part of this movement in our society where anything and everything can be compared to rape.
    Well, it isn’t. Just like murder isn’t murder if no one is dead. And as you said, it trivializes rape and desensitizes us to it when we hear it named. We probably have a whole generation growing up associating rape with video games and winning.

  • davenj

    The difference is that while Vick changed his plea to guilty a month later, the evidence against him by July was pretty insurmountable. Aside from the testimony of many people against him there were financials and other evidence of crimes committed.
    Compared to this case the amounts of evidence were just completely different.
    It wasn’t just an issue of animal cruelty, though I think there’s a case to be made that animal cruelty does get viewed more severely. It was also a case of evidence.
    Nike is a business. They have every right to drop people for business reasons. It’s not their fault that they operate in a society that views a dog as being less worthy of abuse than a woman. However, that’s not the only thing at play here.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    And she PUT A CAPTION to point out that this is the case. WTF more do you want from her?

  • LalaReina

    Thank you

  • NapoleonInRags

    I want it to make any sense what so ever. I want it to have something to do with the image. What does an unrelated NFL player and an unrelated NIKE advertising phrase have to do with this situation. This seems to remain stubbornly unexplained.

  • syndella

    IDK, I’d really hate to have my picture by a blog post about a rapist, especially when I’m not in any way related.
    But maybe that’s just me.

  • Opheelia

    Yes, Kobe Bryant very likely raped someone. Her case fell apart because she shrewdly deduced that the criminal justice system would bring her no justice, and she opened a civil case against him. Public opinion of that decision broke her case.