Recently a video went viral showing Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice physically, and verbally abusing his players throughout multiple practices. The video was initially brought to the attention of Rutgers by a former basketball employee in late November of last year. It shows multiple instances of Rice hitting, kicking, and throwing basketballs at his players. He also verbally abuses his players with a slew of anti-gay comments. After the video went public GLAAD called for Rice to be fired and, along with Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Assembly, put the heat on Rutgers University to take action. Yesterday, Mike Rice was dismissed from his coaching position at the school.
Gov. Christie was quoted, in an article written on ESPN.com, as saying the decision to let Rice go was the, "right and necessary action to take in light of the conduct displayed on the videotape". He also discisses the necessity to not let these types of actions occur within the school's athletic environment. "Parents entrust their sons to the Rutgers Athletic Department, and the men's basketball program, at an incredibly formative period of their lives. All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better". The article also quotes State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who refers to Rice's conduct as "unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances."
After news of the firing GLAAD and the Tyler Clementi Foundation released a statement regarding the decision made to let Rice go. Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student, died by suicide in 2010 after his roommate secretly recorded video of him kissing another man. The foundation was established by his family soon thereafter to promote safe and inclusive environments for LGBT youth and their allies. The statement thanks Rutgers University for keeping their commitment to the school's LGBT community.
GLAAD's Aaron McQuade was quoted as saying, "Anti-gay slurs are not only unacceptable, they're outright dangerous and fuel climates of hostility and hate, and incite fear and uncertainty in LGBT students, fans and athletes. Rutgers did the right thing today by sending the message that homophobia will not be tolerated."
Joseph and Jane Clementi, Tyler's parents, stated that, "all students require safe environments to learn and reach their full potential, and Coach Rice's conduct has no place on a campus that is devoted to learning and fostering a sense of community. We know that Rutgers is such a place, and….it must not tolerate that kind of behavior".
Even though Rutgers did take action by initially suspending, fining, and reportedly sending Rice to anger management therapy, it is still unclear as to why they did not fire the coach immediately after the incident was brought to their attention. Assemblywoman Oliver has stated that, "the decision not to dismiss him last year needs a complete and thorough review."
Coaches are hard on their players, as they should be. They are there to create the best team possible, to push athletes beyond what they think they can do. But when dealing with student athletes, coaches are also there to mold their players and guide them through the challenges of young adulthood and prepare them for the 'real world,' whether as a pro athlete or not. The behavior exhibited by Rice may have been excused even as recently as a few years ago as "just part of the game" but this conduct is no longer acceptable anywhere in our society, including the world of athletics.