Ray Rice blackballed by teams, not league

Ray Rice blackballed by teams, not league

Keith Allison

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has yet to find a team in the National Football League. Wikimedia Commons

Marquis Munson

By Marquis Munson

The American criminal justice system holds as a central tenet that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. However, in sports you are innocent until off-the-field scrutiny. Those off the field issues can put a career at a standstill no matter how much talent one has.

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is an example. The former Pro Bowler still has yet to find a team in the National Football League. Rice was suspended for aggravated assault on his then-fiancée back in February 2014. On November 28, 2014, Rice was reinstated by the NFL and was able to sign with any team willing to sign him.

No team wants to take him.

In a recent interview with ESPN, DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, suggested the reason Ray Rice hasn’t signed to a team or even a tryout is because he is being blackballed by the league.

“This, unfortunately, is a league that has a history of blackballing players,” Smith said. “I find it hard to believe that a player of Mr. Rice’s caliber hasn’t at least gotten one offer from a team to come work out.”

Although I agree with Smith and find it odd that a player of Ray Rice’s stature has not found a gig with any team, I wouldn’t call it being blackballed by the league – Rice is just a huge gamble for a team.

The need for running backs at this point is slim coming off one of the best running back draft classes in recent memory and big free agent signings. Former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, now of the Dallas Cowboys, was able to find a job before Rice, despite having a similar case as Rice, because the need for defensive ends has been higher this year than the need for running backs. Rice has a good chance if big name injuries happen for teams at the position.

Also, going back to Hardy, the difference between the two cases was Rice was caught on tape. The image of Rice dragging his then-fiancée out of an elevator is a stain that’s forever on the league if Rice returns to the field.

Their talent on the field is what makes them high profile athletes, but bad plays made outside of the sports are what can leave their reputation forever tainted with the organization, media, and fans.

Rice isn’t being blackballed by the league. Teams don’t want to take on the image of Rice representing their organization. When a team is willing to gamble its reputation for long term success, Rice will be back in the back field.