Second Chances

Role Daddy Darin Feldman reflects on the NFL, Ray Rice and whether the football gridiron deserves a second chance…
Knocked out cold! That’s what we all saw. Two people walked into an elevator, the doors closed, and in a split second, a man delivered a devastating blow to a woman that caused her to fall, hit her head and lay unconscious. Then dragged out from the elevator like a sack of laundry, the woman was unconscionably left on public display laying face down and motionless by that same man. Most people would assume that only a heartless street thug would be capable of committing such an act. But it wasn’t. It was the highly revered All Pro running back, 2013 Super Bowl champion, Ray Rice.
Say it ain’t so Ray! This surely can’t be the Ray Rice we have embraced nationally as a beloved powerhouse running back and locally as a home town hero for his exemplary community service. Unquestionably, Ray has been a model of generosity financially and with his time, giving back to programs that once helped him become the star he is today. While we all “knew” what happened that night in Atlantic City, the absence of start to finish optical evidence gave us hope that maybe Ray’s actions weren’t as bad as surmised and everything could just go back to the way it was. He could once again be an iconic football hero. Without seeing what actually transpired in the elevator, people took solace in the human spirit that to forgive is divine and that everyone deserves a second chance. Unfortunately for Ray, the unexpurgated tape eventually did surface and it was uglier than what most could ever imagine. So we now get to question the societal tenet that everyone deserves a second chance.
Surely not all transgressions are forgivable and not everyone is afforded a chance at redemption. We will never see Bernie Madoff manage money again and it is equally unlikely that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong will ever see another endorsement deal. When we grant someone a second chance, we are really opining on the egregiousness of a person’s actions. The offender is being judged on the severity of his action, the likelihood of reoccurrence and how remorseful he seems to be.
Violent encounters like what Ray Rice did are horrible for everyone involved. The victim is traumatized both physically and emotionally, and the aggressor is left to deal with guilt, shame, and the legal repercussions. This form of cyclical behavior is tragic, but the cycle can be broken. Treatment for mood disorders is readily available and it is often mandatory for people like Ray Rice with violent impulses. Thankfully, a large variety of treatment services exist online. Anyone battling with tension and anxiety should seriously consider these services, as they are just a few clicks and a phone call away.
Demonstration of contrition takes many forms. Sometimes its simply “I’m sorry.” Other times, we need more. Show us that you are really sorry! It appeared that Ray’s public apology was heartfelt. But to whom was the apology really directed? Was it to the NFL and his teammates because of the distraction he created and the games that he will miss? Or more importantly, was is it to the countless number of women abused by men whose situation was exacerbated by a public figure’s actions making domestic violence seem acceptable? Ray’s commitment to becoming a future advocate for speaking out against domestic violence seemed perfunctory at best. Showing up at high school alma mater football game and being a sideline spectacle is probably not the best way to show how sorry you really are Ray.
How likely is reoccurrence? Well Ray already told us that it was a 30 second mistake in his life and that it would never happen again. Was the mistake in getting caught on film or was it truly a momentary lapse in all judgement and sensibilities? What was it about that evening that made it so unique from any other night that makes this a one time occurrence? Predicting future behavior is an impossible task but we are asked to do it all the time. And our best tool for seeing into the future is to look into the past. The past is no guarantee of the future, but its our best source of information for guessing it. And this is why the full, unedited version of the tape is so important in our “second chance” verdict for Ray.
What we witnessed on the elevator that evening wasn’t a video of a man just being physically inappropriate with his partner. It was inexplicable rage! Rage like that is rarely a random one time event. Hard to imagine that the first time a man physically assaults his partner is just with one “knock out” punch. So how many times have there been physical altercations between Ray and his wife. Vegas odds say its a lot more than one. Again, history does not predict the future, but it does a pretty good job of showing whats in store.
Should Ray Rice be allowed to play in the NFL again? The answer really comes down to how confident you are that this type of behavior will never happen again. Based on what we saw, how could anyone ever come to that conclusion?
Darin Feldman is the co-founder of A-Game Sports, a youth sports program and facility opening in 2015 in Westchester County, New York. He’s also the husband of Role Mommy founder, Beth Feldman and will be contributing regularly as Role Daddy.