Don’t Feel Sorry for Ray Rice

Ray RiceThere are two conversations in regard to Ray Rice. I am not qualified to lead one of them.

The first conversation is a football conversation. It is a business decision in regard to hiring a once exceptional running back. His numbers declined even before “the incident,” and if a decision is to be made on pure talent, I am certainly not the one to say “yes” or “no.” Also working against him is that he is unemployed at his profession when many other unemployed, competing football players without baggage are also on the market. He is getting older, though he is not ancient. There are many running backs who played well past 28 (Rice’s age at present).

There is one final wrinkle to the football part of this conversation. I bring it up because it starts to border on “my area.” If a football team makes a purely football decision and brings Ray Rice into camp, there will be a crap-storm of negative publicity toward the team.

Pick your women’s/anti-domestic violence advocacy group and they will probably be out there picketing. It will take a tough ownership group to weather the storm. It may not necessarily be seen in terms of the number of posters outside the gates, but in terms of sponsor boycotts. I am not saying this will happen as a sure thing, but there could be negative implications impacting the team’s bottom line.

Bad choices and where they lead

Now for the second conversation. One of the foundational elements of Sports Ethics training is that every bad choice we make will lead to a negative consequence. Over the course of many, many years, I have never seen it fail. One day, if your plane is delayed or one evening if you can’t sleep, check out the archived blogs on SportsEthics.com. You will see about 180 blogs, mostly about poor choices and bad consequences.

In the elevator at the hotel casino that evening, Ray Rice knocked out his then fiancée, now wife, and dragged her off the elevator cautioning hotel employees not to call the police. He made that idiotic and violent choice. Not you, not an apologist sports writer, not a diehard fan, not his publicist, coach or agent.

Stop.

Before your blood pressure mounts, please remember this about me. What caused me to devote my life to teaching about ethics and teaching others to making good choices was felony I committed now, more than 20 years ago.

I spent about 14 months in a jail cell wearing an orange jumpsuit. I had been at the top of my profession, a rising star, and though about Ray Rice’s age, I had the trust of men and women much older than myself. I am not standing on Mt. Olympus, I am not strutting around like a know-it-all and I am certainly not judge or jury.

Speaking of that, I well remember the feeling of losing my family, friends, colleagues, professional certifications, money and status as the officers led me away from the courthouse in handcuffs.

I had a choice. To get down to my core, to become fully humiliated, to learn to pray, to learn to forgive, to understand where my decisions brought me, to see that in life we can have redemption.

When I conduct personal consulting to a person who makes bad choices I do so with my knowledge but more so, with an open heart. However, I am not a sucker. I can detect “stuff” from a hundred yards away. It takes work to climb back out, and it is a trip we must make on our own. We can have guides and mentors, but the hard part of the journey is solitary.

I don’t feel sorry for Ray Rice – and you shouldn’t either.

However…

Ray Rice is deserving of a second chance and we need to be willing to give it to him providing he understands where his choices led him. He does not have to “tell me” this in a memorized speech written by a publicist as told to an “on air,” he needs to tell me this in his own words and from his heart and soul.

Whether he gets his second chance in a football uniform or in a business suit is irrelevant to me. He is “middle-aged” by football standards but young as a person facing a lifetime of good decisions. If he never plays a down of football again, but makes something unique out of his life he has still been blessed.

I never returned to my original profession. I lost that window, but it led me to a wonderful life of being able to teach and help others. I wish I had not come to my profession in the manner in which I did, but I am filled with gratitude as to where my second chance led me. Ray Rice deserves to make his journey as well.

 

 

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