By trade, I am a sports reporter for my local newspaper — the same newspaper that covers Ray Rice’s high school alma mater, New Rochelle. I have never met Rice, the now-disgraced former Baltimore Ravens running back, nor interviewed him by phone. My relationship with Rice extends as far as changing in the locker room of my high school and hearing the football guys saying, “We’re playing Ray Rice on Friday … he scored like five touchdowns the last time we played him.”
As he went through the college ranks, I kept an eye on him just because he was a local guy. When he made the NFL, I paid a little more attention to the league just because he was a local guy. When I started working at the paper, I saw a more personal side of him just because he was a local guy. Still, I do not know Ray Rice on a personal level, whatsoever. I’ve heard many profound quotes in my ripe 25 years on this planet and one of them is, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”
Ray Rice, in my opinion, now embodies this quote. While it can apply to many people — especially current or former athletes — to me, it will forever be synonymous with Rice, who was released by the Ravens and suspended by the league, indefinitely, on Monday after video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer-Rice.
That’s the lesson Rice learned.
All of the training during his adolescent and high school years; all of the hours and dedication during the high school season, college, and at the professional level to be one of the best in the game; the positive spotlight he has brought New Rochelle through the years and the hope he has given to so many aspiring athletes — not just in New Rochelle; all of it is — to many — now meaningless.
He is a wife-beater. Just as New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick will always be labeled as a “dog killer,” and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will always be labeled as a “rapist,” Ray Rice will always be labeled as a “wife-beater.” And that’s the lesson that we should all learn. Anyone — regardless of how famous your are or how upstanding your track record has been — can destroy their reputation in a matter of seconds.
Again, I do not know Rice personally. I don’t know if this is the first time he struck his spouse (or another woman) or if this was one, (horrific) out-of-character moment. What I do know is that his high school coaches spoke highly of him; he was a hero in the town of New Rochelle, where he would often re-visit and even keep tabs on the varsity football and basketball teams he once played for; he was well liked in the league.
Now, his team has released him; he has lost millions of dollars in salary; the franchise is offering fans refunds for his jersey; he lost the respect of millions of fans and that of some of his teammates and colleagues; and he may never play in the NFL again.
Ray Rice has, hopefully, learned his lesson; but hopefully we all learned one, too.