A rather expensive football jersey hangs in my son’s closet emblazoned with number 27 and the name RICE on the back.
Admittedly, I didn’t know who Ray Rice was when I bought the jersey. I just knew that every Friday, in our suburban town just outside of Baltimore, everyone wears purple in support of the Ravens. And even though my family really only has a passing interest in football, my 7 year old son wanted to embrace the same spirit as his peers.
So, last Christmas, Evan found a Ravens jersey under the tree. Now, it hangs in the closet as I think about what to do with this somewhat expensive Ray Rice football jersey.
I almost always root for the underdog. I want the little guy to win. I want people to be wrong and I want them to beat the odds. And by the same token, I often give people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes when they don’t even deserve it.
Take Michael Vick, for example. When news broke over his involvement in dog fighting, I thought that perhaps he had a few aggressive pit bulls in his backyard. I thought maybe he had people that were using his dogs for fighting without his knowledge. And I kind of avoided the story because I didn’t really want to know. As a strong advocate for animal rights and against animal cruelty, I wanted this to be a misunderstanding and I certainly didn’t want this to end the career of a high profile athlete.
But how wrong I was. I skirted the details but learned enough to know that Vick was no underdog and the benefit of the doubt had long since been rescinded in my eyes.
“It became clear over the course of the investigation that this was not a crime of passion or a case of obliviousness. Michael Vick was fully involved in a six-year pattern of illegal activity that included dogs being savagely electrocuted, drowned, and beaten to death.”
– New York Post, “Why we can’t forget Michael Vick’s dog-fighting past“
As a result, Vick was indefinitely suspended from the NFL and sentenced to 19 months in prison. Upon his release, he became involved in the Pets for Life program with the Humane Society of the United States as part of his community service message to address the problem of dogfighting. Was his service legitimate? Was he remorseful? Has it made an impact and has he really changed? Only Vick can answer that but the HSUS effectively embraced his potential impact in addressing the problem while still keeping him at arm’s length.
After all that, Vick got a second chance at playing football and he hopes Ray Rice might get one too but even Vick didn’t have any advice to offer him.
Ray Rice, as we all now know, used his fists to pummel his fiancee and callously drag her from an elevator. As with Vick, I stayed on the outskirts of the story not wanting to know all the details. I even chatted with my husband wondering if perhaps this was becoming another trendy cause for the armchair activists.
“No, honey. You need to watch the video,” my husband said. So I did.
It’s a pretty brutal incident all the way around and the what’s even more alarming is the callousness Rice showed after he knocked his fiancee to the ground, potentially killing her.
He, too, has been indefinitely suspended from the NFL.
I can’t get inside the head of Ray Rice or his now wife. I do believe people deserve second chances. Frankly, I don’t care that she stayed. And I don’t care that he’s not playing football. Everyone suffers consequences for their actions in some way, shape, or form.
What I’m thinking about is that expensive football jersey. As Friday rolled around last week, I thought about dusting off Evan’s jersey for him to wear. But I had to pause and try to remember whose name was on the back of the jersey. And I checked it. Damn it. Why did it have to be Rice?
Over dinner tonight, I talked to Evan about that jersey. I asked if he knew who Ray Rice was and if he had heard anything about him in the news recently. He admitted that he knew a few details of the story. We talked about it at a high level and discussed how he no longer plays for the Ravens.
“Would you still want to wear that football jersey?” I asked him, wanting it to be his decision.
“What do you think we should do about it?”
“I guess get a new one.”
I love the simplicity of his thinking.
I honestly hope that Ray Rice does get a second chance. I do think it’s possible for good to come out of bad. Whether he returns to football or not, I hope he tries to live his life making up for the poor decisions he’s made.
As for the jersey, we’ve decided to permanently shelve it. When my son wears the name of another man on his back, I want it to be one he can look up to.