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Meyer Catching Heat Over Rainey’s Return

With Chris Rainey set to return to the Florida offense this week — possibly at running back — Urban Meyer is taking a good amount of heat. 

Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel says that Meyer could’ve/should’ve taken a stand against domestic violence by dismissing Rainey, who was arrested last month for sending a text to a former girlfriend that read, “Time to die b-tch.”

For his latest column, Bianchi contacted an official for a Florida-based domestic violence shelter.  When any athlete raises a finger — or threatens to raise a finger against a woman — domestic violence shelters are an obligatory stop for sports columnists.  And it may well be a good stop, too.

I’ll not defend Rainey’s text.  It was ugly.  It was stupid.  It deserved some amount of looking into.  Perhaps that text did reveal the player’s attitude toward women or give a glimpse of a smoldering, violent temper.  Or perhaps this was just a text sent in anger by a 20-something.  I’ve gotten mad enough to say, “I’d like to kill that guy,” without actually meaning it.  Most of us have.

So I’m split on Bianchi’s tack.  Rainey’s transgression was serious.  And it’s worth noting that even though the women who called the police said they didn’t want him arrested, Rainey was still cuffed and stuffed when cops arrived.  Maybe they viewed him as a hot head, too.

But at the same time, he did not actually take action against the woman in question.  Nor does he have a history — that we know of — of ever taking any action against a woman.  Or of threatening another woman. 

So did Rainey truly commit an act of domestic violence?  Or did he send an out-of-character text message while in a rage? 

Meyer knows the player better than I do.  So does the girlfriend who spoke on his behalf in court.  But Meyer and the Gator program surely would have helped their image by erring on the side of caution and tossing Rainey.

FOR ANOTHER TAKE ON MEYER’S DECISION…


But David Ching of The Athens Banner-Herald suggests it’s not Florida’s image Meyer wants to help.  It’s the Gators’ record and national ranking.

“… The timing behind his decision couldn’t seem more obvious, considering the implications of Saturday’s game against the Gators’ arch rivals.  Somehow both Georgia and Florida can still win the SEC East title, and the Gators’ chances are greatly improved with a player of Rainey’s caliber back on the field.”

That said, Ching writes that Meyer isn’t the only person with his priorities out of whack.

“Most fans care only about winning and, to a lesser extent, whether their team’s players stay out of jail and remain eligible to play.  I’d wager Gators fans support Meyer’s decision by an overwhelming margin, and many of Georgia’s fans would, too, were the shoe on Mark Richt’s foot.”

Let there be no doubt or debate about that last point.  Coaches are “soft on crime” when they work for a rival school or are losing ball games.  Winning coaches of Hometown U are simply “doing what’s best for the young man” when they hand out second-, third- and fourth-chances to troubled stars.

If Rainey plays and plays well on Saturday, all of this will soon blow over.  If he never has another run-in with the authorities, his late-night text will eventually be forgotten.

But if he ever does cross over the line toward domestic violence, Meyer will be judged harshly for his decision to welcome the player back.  Make no mistake, the coach’s reputation now rests squarely in the palms of Rainey’s hands. 

Meyer had better hope he doesn’t drop it in order to pick up his cell phone and send another threatening text message.

 


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