Giving a once-beloved athlete a second chance

Last month, Owings Mills became Media Central.

The Under Armour Performance Center off Deer Park Road — known by locals as Ravens headquarters or "the Castle" — was in the news as Ray Rice's sad saga riveted the media.


Rice, once a star running back, drank too much in an Atlantic City casino-hotel, then got into a slapping and spitting spat with his then-fiancée.

When she angrily rushed at him in an elevator, he floored her with a left fist to her face.


When the elevator video surfaced on the Internet, Rice became Public Enemy No. 1.

Women's rights groups demanded a public flogging — and got it. Prosecutors in New Jersey, though, took a more balanced approach.

Rice had never engaged in domestic abuse before. He had a clean record. He'd been a role model for youth and an advocate for preventing cyber bullying. New Jersey's criminal justice system determined Rice deserved a second chance. He was placed in an intervention program that required counseling and anger-management training.

The incident got Rice suspended by the National Football League for two games.

Or so he thought.

When that elevator video went viral, the NFL changed its mind. The league rescinded the two-games penalty and suspended Rice indefinitely. The Ravens' ownership delivered the ultimate blow. They fired him.

Politicians piled on.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who worked with Rice to get a law passed against cyber bullying, called the athlete's actions "horrible, shocking and reprehensible." He asked citizens to donate to the House of Ruth.


Congressman Elijah Cummings called domestic violence a "hidden epidemic" that is brutal and cynical.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, running for governor, was in a bind. Rice was Brown's favorite Raven. The two co-hosted a holiday toy drive. Brown joined Rice in trying to discourage drunk driving. Brown once called Rice "a truly exceptional leader and role model both on the field and in the community."

Yet as soon as the knockout video appeared, Brown's political survival instincts kicked in. His staff yanked photos of Rice and comments about Rice from Brown's Facebook page and Twitter feed. Brown denounced domestic violence.

Rice, a supporter and friend, had turned into a campaign liability. Their ties had to be terminated.

Other politicians — in Maryland and across the country — joined the public humiliation. It wasn't pretty.

It also wasn't fair.


What Rice did was hideous. He deserved tough punishment.

He is paying a steep price for his alcohol-fueled violence. He should have ignored his wife's taunts and hurtful words. Ray Rice is now the poster child for domestic abuse, even though there's no evidence this was more than a terrible first-time mistake.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, breathing fire and brimstone, went on national TV condemning all concerned for not immediately stripping Rice of his livelihood. She neglected to tell viewers that her own organization, the U.S. Congress, never acts so precipitously, even when senators and congressmen abuse their wives and betray the public.

On Capitol Hill, even the worst offender is entitled to a long, drawn-up process to determine guilt or innocence, examine extenuating circumstances and consider what would be a just outcome.

Rice, though, doesn't get any leniency. For him, it's the gallows ... pronto.

What ever happened to the Judeo-Christian concept of redemption?


No one is talking about that for Rice. Perhaps we should.

"To err is human, to forgive divine," wrote Alexander Pope.

People are fallible. Sometimes we make big mistakes, even grievous ones that alter lives.

If we deserve a second chance, shouldn't others receive similar treatment?

Barry Rascovar's blog is His email address is