Ray Rice: Questions and Fallout

As an agent, I’ve been asked in the last 24 hours, “what would you do if you were representing Ray Rice? Would you stand behind him? Do you walk away? Do you fight for him? Do you distance yourself? Do you speak for him? Do you champion a second chance? As you read this, I ask you, “What would you do if you were his agent?”

Not ever having met Ray Rice, I do acknowledge he has done some good things with his career. He has been active in his community, checked the boxes on being charitable with his time, he was liked well enough in the locker room and by his coaches. He was also respected enough by endorsers to garner 1.6 million in off-field earnings in 2014 (according to Forbes link). But now, after being released by the Ravens, suspended indefinitely by the NFL, no income coming in and being casted as the international villain poster child for domestic violence, Ray Rice is not an attractive client for any agent.

The agent conundrum: The irony is this, when agents sign players they promise to stand by them no matter what. That’s our job, right? So where is the line when an agent says I can’t stand behind you anymore?

Furthermore, if an agent abandons his client in his darkest hour, other players take notice and may lose confidence in that agent and eventually fire them. There lies the conundrum. Michael Vick’s agent stood behind him during his time in jail and helped to champion his comeback to the NFL. Me, as a dog lover and long time pet owner, my loyalties would have been tested.

As for my advice to Ray, if I were representing him, would be to get professional help (I would start by ensuring he secured it)! Make sure this never happens again, and figure out a way to turn this incident into a positive for all victims of domestic violence. Own your actions with sincerity and place your family above your career. Don’t hire a “fix it” PR firm, instead, dive into this issue boldly and take your medicine for your actions. I personally couldn’t champion a reinstatement at this moment until I was convinced the man we saw in the elevator had evolved into a completely different person, a person who would never lay a hand on a woman, nor the people he loves most.

I’m very lucky that I represent clients who don’t have or had these types of issues.

What does the NFLPA do? It will be interesting to watch if the NFL Players Association fights for Ray Rice in any capacity. They fought and won, to help Michael Vick get the balance of his guaranteed monies after his conviction. They fought to help other players who made some offensive social mistakes get reinstated.

I have a feeling they will sit on the sidelines for a while on this one.

Independent enforcement needed for disciplinary actions: The NFL Players Association has been asking the NFL for years to take the power away from the Commissioner’s office as judge and jury for player violations. This Ray Rice incident may help to convince Roger Goodell to give up control of fining, penalizing, and suspending players for their behavior both on and off the field.

Roger Goodell admitted and apologized for missing the mark on Ray’s initial disciplinary action (2 game suspension). Even before he saw the latest video from TMZ he knew he screwed it up. And now, he and the NFL are taking a well-deserved beating for it. However, if there were a third independent party who made disciplinary rulings against players and coaches and even owners, the NFL and its Commissioner would have dodged a huge backlash bullet.

I would think that after the time and energy spent on managing this problem the NFL now may be incentivized to give up control of setting disciplinary actions.

Setbacks: One of the hardest jobs for an agent is securing endorsements for players. It’s more difficult than most people think. Sure, it’s easy for the top ten or twenty players in the league to get them. I do believe this incident can make some companies very gun-shy on selecting athletes, particularly NFL players, as their pitchman.

On another front, the TMZ video has been shown over and over again on an international scale. The BBC, CNN World, Al Jazeera and every major news service in the world is reporting the Ray Rice story. As a frequent traveler to other countries I can attest that we, the USA, get bashed pretty good abroad for just about anything that happens within our borders. And it won’t surprise me when foreign news services twist this into being a major identity with ALL NFL players as a whole. This is not good for the international expansion. Something that Roger Goodell and company is trying hard to accomplish abroad. While selling the NFL to multi-national partners, the Ray Rice incident will loom in the minds those foreigners hearing the pitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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