How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Ray Rice, redemption and a chance at a second chance

The video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer, his fiancée at the time, with a vicious punch to the chin, and then dragging her unconscious body into the hallway, was shocking. It cannot be defended based on what was done to him during his childhood or by anything Ms. Palmer may have done. Rice has serious issues that need to be addressed.

Public response to Rice punching his girlfriend in the elevator has been almost unanimous condemnation. That isn’t surprising; what Rice did was sickening and many suspect it may not be the first time he has hit her. What is surprising is that few people favor giving him a second chance.

His behavior is not to be defended, not should he be immediately reinstated. But if I were the neutral arbitrator in Rice’s personal conduct disciplinary hearing, I would rule that the indefinite ban from the NFL on top of his two-game suspension and placement in a pretrial intervention program was excessive and a form of double jeopardy. I would not ban him from the NFL for life, but neither would I allow him back into the NFL this season.

Rice needs to get help, but he should not be relegated to the human scrap heap. I believe in redemption. I know from my work with organizations that deal with folks who grapple with severe personal problems that there are people who, when given a second chance, turn their lives around. It happens.

Rice has been demonized by the media, the NFL and the public. Through this process, he has been dehumanized. Society seems to see him in a manner similar to how we view child molesters, who are considered the lowest of the low – individuals not worthy of any attempt at reclaiming or rehabilitating them.

Society sees child abusers as cancers that have to be removed before metastasis. Even after they have served their time, we publicize their whereabouts to make sure parents know they are nearby, so they can be vigilant. We treat them this way because we believe they are doomed to repeat their crime. In the case of child sex offenders, this skepticism seems to be justified, as there is no hard evidence that shows a difference in recidivism rates between ex-offenders who have undergone treatment and those who have not.

It is important to point out that there are well-intentioned individuals who are convinced that repeating acts of domestic violence is also inevitable. Some of them are currently, with the assistance of Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, seeking to enact a Megan’s Law-type registry that would alert the community when someone who has been convicted of domestic violence moves into a neighborhood.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that Rice cannot be rehabilitated. He should be suspended this year and next year and required to participate in both intensive anger management therapy and community service and he should be carefully monitored and his behavior evaluated. Whether he is allowed to re-enter the NFL, after rehabilitation, would depend on his behavior and actions over the next two years. The re-entry barrier should be set very high and it should be made clear to him that any indication of inappropriate behavior toward a woman would result in his permanent ban from the NFL. His athletic skills may be dramatically diminished if he is required to stay out of football for two years. So be it. That is the price he should pay for his actions.

It is clear that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attempted to cover up the Rice fiasco. He might have gotten away with it if the TMZ online video post had not surfaced. His original two-game suspension was nothing more than window dressing.

None of us will ever really know why Palmer decided to marry Rice. Some think she might be suffering from battered wife syndrome or a form of Stockholm syndrome as a means of defending herself against what occurred. There is, however, only one explanation for the manner in which Goodell handled the matter: unfettered greed. He should be forced to step down, but, unless pressure is brought to bear on NFL sponsors by women, this will probably not happen.

What happened to Palmer was horrendous and should not be forgotten. Perhaps something good can come out of something bad if more attention is brought to bear on domestic violence. Imagine if Rice were able to somehow triumph over what he wrought and became a spokesperson for addressing the epidemic of domestic violence in our country. If he were able to prove, over time, that he had changed his behavior toward women, wouldn’t it be great to see him speak out and expose the mockery of batterers who claim to love their victims?