Playing with a player’s reputation
The Ray Rice story and the importance of off-field athlete conduct
Athletes are considered team players on the field, ice or court. Yet, that mentality doesn’t always cross over into a professional athlete’s personal life.
Player’s conduct off the field is becoming harder to keep a secret, thanks to social media and the Internet. A professional athlete’s reputation is no longer their own; Poor personal player conduct affects others. Pro players have an obligation to the organizations they represent, the players they compete with, the fans that look up to them and even the family members they love.
“How you present yourself, how you treat others and how you act is not only a reflection of yourself, but it’s a reflection on your teammates and the athletic department as a whole,” says Matt Strong, Mount Royal University Cougar’s men’s hockey team defenseman.
“Perceptions are easily formed, and in some cases, incredibly hard to change. I do my best to represent Mount Royal athletics to the highest standard in every facet of my life, not because I play on a team, but because the organization and those involved with athletics deserve it.”
On Monday, Sept. 8, the Baltimore Ravens fired running back, Ray Rice, after a video leaked of him knocking out his then-fiancé, now wife, unconscious in a hotel elevator in February.
“It [the video] was something we saw for the first time. It changed things. When someone that you care about does wrong and is faced with the consequences of doing wrong and rightfully so, it’s tough and it’s hurtful,” said Ravens’ head coach, John Harbaugh.
Former teammates spoke up, sharing their reactions after seeing the video, in a Sept. 9 news conference.
Ravens’ wide receiver, Steve Smith started the Steve Smith Family Foundation in light of his mother who was a domestic violence victim. The organization addresses “weak links” in communities. It advocates for victims to leave and seek help in abusive relationships.
Smith said that he doesn’t tolerate the issue, but it’s hard to judge his former friend and teammate.
“This will be my only statement about it: I don’t condone what he has done, but also I’m not going to be the judge and the jury. That’s not my role. That’s not my place.”
Smith also says that all players are now under the microscope and that everyone has secrets they wish to keep private.
“Unfortunately we live in a glass bowl, and at times it’s unfair and it puts us in awkward situations. We have all done things that we hope do not play out on camera.”
Strong says poor individual player conduct impacts teams as a whole, but sometimes, depending on the situation, there is nothing you can do but move forward.
“I think as a team we all suffer the setback of poor conduct collectively. When one team member conducts themselves poorly it’s natural to feel disappointed, but we are all human, and we all make mistakes. As a team we are united and learning and improving from our mistakes is what makes us stronger.”
Rice lost all of his major sporting endorsements: Nike cut ties and his name was removed from the online NFL Madden video game. Former fans are now lining up at Raven’s sporting locations to exchange their Rice jerseys for new ones. Some are even burning them.
Rice was charged with assault in May, after the elevator incident and was issued a two game suspension. The charges were later removed, after he completed a domestic abuse program. The video caused the National Football League to change its response, and Rice is currently under an indefinite league suspension.
In a CBS interview, NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, stated that we shouldn’t expect Rice to be gone for good, but that the player must continue to further address the issue and use appropriate resources moving forward.
“We would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he [Rice] is addressing this issue clearly, that he has paid a price for the action that he has already taken,” said Goodell to CBS.
New information on NFL player domestic abuse issues is also surfacing. The issue isn’t new, and there is a history of NFL player cases. Global News analyzed a San Diego Union-Tribune database, starting in 2000, that found 24 of 32 NFL teams had hired a player with at least one domestic violence or sexual assault charge.
Jayna Rice continues to stay on her husband’s side, defending their relationship. Her comments are opening the discussion about domestic violence. The conversation is trending on Twitter with hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.
The incident is also causing other sporting organizations to take a hard look at their off-field conduct guide violence rules.
In his press statement at the beginning of his initial suspension, Rice says, “I know that’s not who I am as a man. I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can’t take back.”