Guilty or not, when a Super Bowl winning quarterback is publicly accused of sexual assault, it usually qualifies as big news.

And it did early this week in most major media outlets. But not the biggest sports media outlet of all, ESPN, which conspicuously declined until last night to report on the matter.

The decision generated a torrent of criticism, particularly because Ben Roethlisberger has had close ties to the network, both as a story subject and a paid promoter.

But ESPN stuck to its guns, citing its policy to avoid reporting on civil suits under most circumstances.

Then, suddenly, an Associated Press account updating the Roethlisberger story appeared on, and other ESPN outlets began reporting it.

What happened?

"Based on the sensitive nature of the story and other factors we mentioned, we initially exercised caution and did not report it," a network statement said late last night. "Since then, we've been observing how the story has progressed, monitoring other news outlets, and doing our own reporting. We decided to report the story tonight."

ESPN added, "The criminal news today is part of the ongoing evolution of the story we've been monitoring. We will lead our reports tonight about this with that news, that there will be no criminal investigation into the allegations."

Was public criticism a factor? "We made this decision because we feel it is the right thing to do. We know not everybody will agree with the decision, just like not everyone agreed with our decision not to report it."

Earlier Wednesday, ESPN explained factors that go into its decisions on whether to report a suit, including whether the allegation might unfairly "impugn a person's reputation or character" and "the subject's track record/previous history with similar allegations."

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Thus in the case of Adam (Pacman) Jones it reported on a suit because of his long rap sheet.

A search of's archives did not turn up a report on the day a suit was filed against the Knicks' Eddy Curry by his former driver in January.