I remember using Arsenio Hall’s trademark phrase, “Things that make you go ‘Hmmm,’” after seeing the video of Super Bowl champion Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée, now-wife in an Atlanta City elevator, rendering her unconscious, back in February 2014.
As the heinous act went viral, the former Baltimore Ravens star found himself out of a job, suspended indefinitely from the NFL and wondering how he would ever put both his life and his career back together again. Several years later and with what I suspect were many hours of therapy and counseling, he has become a public speaker for youth and college athletes on bad decision-making and domestic violence.
Looking back on that time in his life, he says, “I was in a dark place. … I’m thankful for the help I received … [and] everyone that helped me get out of that dark, dark, dark cloud.”
I’m glad he’s overcome his demons and that he and wife have been able to move on, now the parents of two young children. But I still have several concerns as Rice, rather than the exception, seems to be the rule in American society. Several recent reports in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine say one in five men admit hitting their wives or girlfriends. Researchers believe the number [19 percent] of physical abusers would be even higher if men could enter their responses privately.
And the beat and more cases of abuse go on. With the recent NFL draft completed where college superstars have instantly become multimillionaires, several young men face abuse, rape or misdemeanor battery charges — poised to don the stripes of prison inmates instead of professional football team uniforms. LSU guard La’el Collins found himself in this dilemma two years ago. Today, Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Caleb Brantley, picked up by the Cleveland Browns and Joe Mixon, chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals, are in the hot seat — Black men barely 21 years old who, like Rice, have long been coddled because of their athletic abilities.
Even during my matriculation at the University of Michigan, I heard about young men who were abusive, abrasive and confident that they could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. No one deserves to be abused, not only because it’s a violation of the law, but because it’s just plain wrong. When will college presidents and pro team owners have the guts to put their foot down, refuse to accept such behavior and tear up scholarship offers and contracts, showing those who commit such acts to the door — instead of the Hall of Fame.