Let me just say that my heart broke a little when I heard about Chris Rainey being waived. I had been watching him since camp, thinking that he had the potential to be a truly electric player for the Steelers. He dropped in the draft because of ball control issues, and we certainly saw that come to fruition this past season, but that can be overcome with the right motivation and coaching. I had high, high hopes for him as a Steeler. Therefore, I’ll confess it, my very first reaction was from the perspective of a fan, and that was of very great sadness. The second thought I had, immediately on the heels of the first one, was that there would be questions about why Rainey was waived and Roethlisberger was not. I’ve read a lot of opinions about that, up to and including the patently absurd accusation that it was racially motivated. I won’t lie that I don’t think there was some deference paid to the fact that Roethlisberger is a franchise quarterback when the decision about what to do with him was being made, but there are some differences between his circumstances and Rainey’s. Let’s look at that:
- Chris Rainey was charged with a felony for aggravated stalking of a former girlfriend when in college at Florida. He was suspended from the team briefly, but charges were dropped to a misdemeanor when he agreed to complete an intervention program. Therefore, he entered the draft already red flagged with a conviction on his record.
- Say what you want to about Roethlisberger’s behavior, and I have a lot to say about it, he was never even formally charged.
- I am aware that Rainey’s girlfriend has gone on record as saying he did not slap her, and a neighbor has written an email stating that he did not slap her and that the person who made the 911 call has a grievance with Rainey and is herself a problem individual. But, look closely at what the author said, “What the police report/your article describes as Chris ‘pull[ing] the woman out of a vehicle…and then slapp[ing] her in the face with an open hand’ was actually him pulling on a backpack that she was also holding and she took a few steps outside the open car door that she was sitting sideways in (because he obviously pulled harder than she did). The only thing that I can imagine witnesses claiming to be a slap to the face was when he tried to snatch the bag and she put her hand in the way and his hand made a slapping noise against hers.” That still describes a violent episode in my book and the neighbor, trying to come to his defense, actually seems to be damning him with faint praise.
- The fact that the girlfriend is denying it as well doesn’t hold much weight with me. Consider that http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/ reports, “Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.”
- After Roethlisberger served his suspension he has seemingly turned his life around. Not only has he had no more reported issues, but he is married to a local Pittsburgh girl and they recently welcomed their first child. I am not excusing his past behavior, far from it, but it does seem he has learned from his mistakes and matured.
- Could Rainey do the same? Yes, and I certainly hope that he does. Both for his sake, and that of his girlfriend. But, the real crux of the matter is, times have changed since reports of Roethlisberger’s assaults came to light. This past year the league suffered through a player not only murdering the mother of his child, and then taking his own life, but then to have it followed up by another player driving drunk and killing a teammate. These players are, like it or not, role models, and the legacy they are leaving is disturbing to say the least. Enough with tolerating bad behavior. We can no longer wink it away because there is now a body count associated with it. Sadly, but correctly in my opinion, the Steelers just served notice that won’t tolerate it from their players. We should applaud that, not accuse the owners responsible for the Rooney Rule, of racism.