Small group protests Ben Roethlisberger's return
Two dozen people, many covering their faces with gold bandanas, protested Ben Roethlisberger's return to the Steelers by marching from the National Aviary to Heinz Field.
Share with others:
The two dozen people holding signs outside the main entrance to Heinz Field Sunday had a self-described "radical marching band," a tailgate with vegan options and a message: Drop Big Ben.
Most of the protesters wore black shirts or sweatshirts and bandanas over their noses and mouths, though there was one female protester dressed as a ninja turtle. They described themselves as Steelers fans and held signs that said "Don't Let Big Ben Rape Again" and "Consent is not a game."
For more than an hour as they stood outside Heinz Field, they argued against Ben Roethlisberger's return as Steelers quarterback following a four-game suspension for violating the National Football League's personal conduct policy.
"We think it's shameful and embarrassing," said Alecia Ott, 24, of Garfield, one of the event's organizers. "And people frankly can't cheer for the team when they know that there is a sexual predator on the team, on the roster."
But as Steelers fans tailgated and made their way into Heinz Field for the Sunday afternoon game against the Cleveland Browns, it appeared Ms. Ott and the other protesters held the minority view.
Thousands of Steelers fans passed by the protesters on their way to the game, many of them wearing the No. 7 jersey of Mr. Roethlisberger and many more trading taunts with the protesters and voicing their support for the quarterback.
One of Mr. Roethlisberger's supporters was Kathy Alvarez, originally from Pittsburgh but now living in Smyrna, Ga. She and her two nephews stood opposite a protest sign and held up a sign welcoming Mr. Roethlisberger back.
"I really think that there's not charges filed against him, so we need to support him," she said.
The lack of charges filed against him, and the legal concept of innocent until proven guilty, were frequent points made by people who stopped at the protest.
The group is not ignoring the fact that he has not been charged, Ms. Ott said, but she said "it's just not the most important thing for us."
"We don't care whether he was charged or not," she said. "It's definitely important to get the word out there that he is a sexual predator because of his actions, and he violated consent."
In March, Mr. Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old female Georgia college student after a night of drinking in a Milledgeville, Ga., bar. He was not charged by Georgia authorities.
A woman in Nevada also filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Roethlisberger last year, accusing him of sexual assault.
Most of the complaints against the group revolved around many of the protesters' decision to cover their faces with bandanas and hoods.
Ms. Ott, who did not have her face covered, said the group had received threats online and many people felt they should keep their faces covered for safety reasons.
First Published October 18, 2010 12:14 am