KANSAS CITY, Mo. — She can’t escape the name.
If the surname was Robinson or Stevenson, Thompson or Hartman, she could blend in. Be known for her ballplaying, even if her brother was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who keeps making the news for other reasons.
But there’s no hiding from that name. It’s too distinctive. Too revealing.
Nobody has to ask. Nobody has to wonder. Carlee Roethlisberger is Big Ben’s sister. She’s Big Ben’s sister when he’s winning Super Bowls and she’s Big Ben’s sister when he’s cavorting in Georgia nightclubs.
Carlee Roethlisberger will have a big say in the Oklahoma women’s bid to make the Final Four. The Sooners play Notre Dame tonight in an NCAA regional semifinal at the Sprint Center, and Roethlisberger will be needed. The 6-foot-1 junior forward has started 18 times and averaged 24 minutes a game.
And she bears the weight of her name, which can be both blessing and curse.
"Not an easy thing to carry around,” said teammate Whitney Hand, one of Roethlisberger’s closest friends.
The blessing? Bowl trips to Hawaii and meeting celebrities and feeling Super Bowl confetti fall on your head at Ford Field.
The curse? People seeing that name and figuring it’s good for more than its share of women’s basketball victories. People seeing that name and immediately knowing your brother’s business.
Lately, Ben Roethlisberger’s business has been trouble. Earlier this month, a 21-year-old college student accused the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback of sexual assault. Last summer, a Nevada woman filed a civil suit against Roethlisberger alleging the same.
Ben Roethlisberger has been to a few of his sister’s games, though none this season. Truth is, he’d be better off following her NCAA Tournament odyssey than chasing Georgia belles in a college bar.
Carlee Roethlisberger stands by her brother, lists him as her hero and favorite athlete, but also knows she has to separate herself from all that swirls around him, good or bad.
"There’s only so much you can do,” she said.