Sports fans love a good comeback story, just ask the legions who are demanding that Pete Rose finally be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes, though, that road back takes a little bit more than a promise to behave or to turn over a new leaf. The person has to actively rebuild their brand in the court of public opinion. Case in point, Ray Rice.
Most people, even those who don’t follow sports, have seen the security footage of Rice attacking his then-fianceé in an elevator, punching, kicking and, finally, dragging her semi-conscious form down the hall to their room. It’s pretty clear Rice doesn’t know he’s on camera. But he was, and, very soon, he was on everyone’s TV. Then he was off the team where he’d been part of a superstar lineup, the Baltimore Ravens.
That was some time ago, though, and Rice says he’s ready to move on, to become someone else in the hearts and minds of both football fans and the general public. Yes, what he did was wrong, Rice agrees. And, he wants to stand up and be counted among those who are trying to keep other men from doing the same thing.
Rice took his message to CBS This Morning, where he and his now-wife, Janay, talked about Rice’s determination to shed that abuser image and become, instead, a mentor for other men in similar situations. When shown the video of his assault, Rice was candid in his response:
“I hate that person. I hate him. Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other – I actually got my second chance…”
In that, he was speaking of his marriage to Janay, who has repeatedly claimed this was the only time Rice had ever physically abused her. “I was there. I lived it… I don’t need to relive it over and over again…” she said to the host. Clearly, both he and she are ready to move on.
Some are accusing Rice of just trying to put on this front in an attempt to get back into football, an accusation he virulently opposes. “I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football. The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most…”
Rice’s message, now, is that he’s a different person. One other players – and fans – can look up to, or contact when they need accountability. “One of the underlying issues for me was — I never wanted to ask for help. Football, for me, was my counseling. It was my therapy. It was my psychologist. It was everything… I would love to help anyone that’s willing to go the long haul.”
Rice’s message is one of redemption through prevention. He doesn’t need football to be fulfilled. He just wants to help others struggling with the same pressures. It’s a strong message of personal accountability and moving forward in a positive way. Rice was given a platform, challenged with uncomfortable accusations, and he made the most of it by staying cool, staying on message, and offering open arms.