I’m the first to admit I can be a hypocrite. I take shots at people knowing I’m not perfect. I make mistakes personally and professionally, and I know all about stones and glass houses.
The point of a column is to inspire debate, and I understand I often say things people will disagree with. This piece, however, isn’t one of those times. We’re not going to argue the Hall of Fame case of Don Mattingly or David Ortiz.
Sometimes there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs.
I also understand the business of sports. The teams we love are actually billion-dollar corporations which must be run as such to a large degree. Every once in a while, however, something happens which causes even a professional sports franchise to think about something other than money.
I was literally three-quarters of the way through a column about how different people could do the right thing to fix the Ray Rice mess, but that I didn’t think anyone would, mostly because too many lawyers would end up involved. I even had written that I understood the Ravens couldn’t just cut Rice like he was on their fantasy team.
Well guess what? Apparently they can. The Ravens went to the team menu, checked the box next to Rice’s name and hit drop. When you and I do it, we’re making a tough decision about who to play in a league where maybe we can win $1,000. The Ravens have millions of dollars invested in Rice and much more on the line with their franchise. I would have understood if they took some time to deal with a difficult decision, as easy as we think it should be just from looking at the video.
Rice’s cap hit for next season is close to $10 million. The Ravens didn’t care, and they should be commended.
I had written about how Roger Goodell, having now seen the video (if we believe he hadn’t seen it) needed to step up, give Rice a year suspension, and beg him to sue the league over being punished twice for one offense. Rice probably would have had a legal leg to stand on, but he couldn’t have tried to make the argument without looking much worse than he already did.
I was going to ask Rice to do the right thing and stand up and say what I did was so wrong I need to sit for more than two games, even if it’s just to send a message to kids about how to act. He won’t get the chance now, even if I never thought he’d actually do it.
In the first version of this column, I had asked the Ravens to do as close to the right thing as possible. Rice was eligible to come back Friday, and I wanted the Ravens to tell Rice to stay home a couple of more weeks, even if they had to pay him, just to make an example of the situation and show NFL fans what the teams’ values were. They would have had to pay him and maybe even play a man short, but it would have been what was right.
Boy was I wrong. The Ravens did what was right. Cutting Rice was possible and it got done.
Many are ripping the Ravens today for not doing this sooner. It remains unclear what the Ravens knew when, and I would have liked to have seen them do more when they knew Rice had done something along the lines of what we’ve all now seen. When it mattered, however, the Ravens did what was necessary. Now we know exactly what happened, the Ravens made it clear they don’t want someone who punched a woman in that manner on their team.
Now the issue becomes what becomes of Rice. From what I’ve heard, he’s been a model citizen and a charitable man throughout his career. It’s entirely possible this was the first time he’d ever made such a mistake, and that alcohol drove him to a dark place he’ll never be again. I’m not one of these people who wants him banned for life from the sport, but I think for everyone’s best interest, he needs to be gone for the season. He needs time to figure out what would drive him to do such a thing (something he doesn’t seem to have done based on his public comments) and the league needs to send a clear message that you can’t get away with doing something like this.
I hate the comparison to the NFL’s drug rules. Josh Gordon is sitting a year for multiple offenses, not because he smoked weed, but Rice does need to sit for at least just as long. Next year, if he shows contrition, he can apply for reinstatement from the NFL’s suspension which came painfully late and only after the Ravens had stepped in. At that point I wouldn’t mind a team giving him a second chance. After all, if Michael Vick, whose actions, while on animals instead of humans, were premeditated, can get another job, Rice should be allowed to play again.
It won’t be this year, however. The NFL added a suspension to look like they’re on the right side, but be assured it was the Ravens who stepped up. They chose human emotion and common sense over business sense.
Someone in sports did the right thing for a change.