Rice de­serves sec­ond chance

Of­fers pay to do­mes­tic-abuse pre­ven­tion pro­grams if signed to play

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GE­ORGE DIAZ

And so Ray Rice says he will donate his en­tire salary to or­ga­ni­za­tions fo­cused on do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion if an NFL team signs him as the train­ing camp clock goes tick, tick, tick.

Pre­dictable re­ac­tion: Eye-roll. Smirk. Maybe pfft! I hope it hap­pens. Se­ri­ously. Is Rice driven by ego, self-preser­va­tion and in­sin­cer­ity? Per­haps.

Maybe highly likely. So what? Where is the harm?

Rice has a fam­ily to sup­port, in­clud­ing his wife, Janay, the woman he slapped in an el­e­va­tor in At­lantic City in 2014, cap­tured in the in­fa­mous video that ef­fec­tively de­stroyed Rice’s NFL ca­reer with the Bal­ti­more Ravens.

Rice’s re­turn can give a voice to an av­er­age of three women killed ev­ery day by an in­ti­mate part­ner in the United States as well as the nearly 20 peo­ple per minute who are phys­i­cally abused by an in­ti­mate part­ner, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence.

And the NFL could cer­tainly use some pos­i­tive news, deal­ing with a tar­nished im­age with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and its play­ers.

The point is that Rice is try­ing to do some good here. He’s owned up to his crimes, and ob­vi­ously needs the work.

“All the scru­tiny that I’ve got, it was de­served, be­cause do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is a hor­ri­ble thing,” Rice told USA To­day Sports this past week. “Me do­nat­ing my salary is some­thing that’ll be from the heart for me. I only want to play foot­ball so I can end it the right way for my kids and for the peo­ple that re­ally be­lieved in me. But I know there’s a lot of peo­ple af­fected by do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, and ev­ery dol­lar helps. It’s rais­ing aware­ness.”

Will it also raise eye­brows? Of course it will, much like the cyn­i­cal shots aimed at Michael Vick when he be­came an un­likely ad­vo­cate, speak­ing up against an­i­mal cru­elty. Yep, same guy as dog-killer Michael Vick, who served a year and a half of his 23-month sen­tence in a fed­eral prison for his role in a dog­fight­ing op­er­a­tion.

As a dog lover and owner, I sup­ported Vick’s re­demp­tion road as well. What he did was de­spi­ca­ble. What Rice did was de­spi­ca­ble. But all any­one can do with their life is move on and try to live a bet­ter one.

Vick has done as much with his con­flicted im­age. He ap­peared be­fore the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in De­cem­ber, lob­by­ing for pas­sage of an an­i­mal-rights bill that would al­low po­lice of­fi­cers to res­cue dogs or cats from ve­hi­cles if it reaches an un­safe tem­per­a­ture.

Rice is look­ing for his re­demp­tive jour­ney as well, though he faces other chal­lenges, mostly per­for­mance-based.

Vick had some mileage left in his play­ing ca­reer. Quar­ter­backs are al­ways at a premium.

Run­ning backs are not in a league that is pass-happy. Rice has some very strong neg­a­tives, in­clud­ing the fact that he is push­ing 30 and had a spotty 3.1 yards per carry av­er­age the last time he took the field in 2013. The fact that he was once a the three­time Pro Bowl run­ning back amounts to an­cient his­tory.

Rice’s chance at re­demp­tion is a long one, but it mer­its con­sid­er­a­tion.

“I’d say give him a chance,” said Carol Wick, for­mer CEO of Har­bor House, a do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence shel­ter in Cen­tral Florida.

But like many peo­ple, Wick raises con­cerns about sin­cer­ity.

“It’s al­ways hard when you look at a sit­u­a­tion like that and you see the per­son is try­ing to do some­thing for them­selves to get back into the NFL . ... Abusers are al­ways self-serv­ing.”

Statis­tics in­di­cate that 50 per cent of abusers can change. By all ac­counts, Rice is in the pos­i­tive half of that 50-50 pop­u­la­tion. Give it a coin flip.

Bet­ter yet, give the man a chance, give the man a job, so he can do some good in this world.

Whether he’s truly sin­cere of not, the end game is a good thing.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ray Rice has of­fered to play for free af­ter abus­ing his wife, Janay Palmer, in 2014.

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