I'm not saying Ray Rice did what he did because he thought he could get away with it. Who knows what drives men to beat up their partners? There are plenty of men with no money or power who abuse women. But the fact is, he did think he could get away with it. Just like Tiger Woods thought he could get away with it. Just like O. J. Simpson thought he could get away with it. Just like Pete Rose, and any number of other professional athletes, have thought they could get away with it.
Athletes are a special case in our society, because their gifts are recognized so young, and they are rewarded for those gifts so young that they can easily get wrapped in a cloak of entitlement.
Arrogance comes with thinking you can get away with it. And some people do get away with it - some for a long while. But in today's world where privacy has become almost a meaningless concept, no secrets are really safe. Ray Rice thought he could play the "he said... she said" card, but the video didn't lie. And it's disturbing to think that in this no-secrets era, where scandals pop like Whack-a-mole, athletes are still looked upon as role models by kids.
So what's the cost of arrogance? Some of it is intangible, some of it can be quantified. Ray Rice lost his career -- the Baltimore Ravens have told him "Nevermore," and his $40 million contract has been voided. He has lost endorsements from Nike, Madden Football, and training program VertiMax. Dick's Sporting Goods, Modell's and the NFL shop have pulled No. 27 jerseys from their shelves and catalogs, and the Ravens have announced that they will exchange any Rice jerseys for that of another player. It looks as though he won't lose any freedom -- he's been sentenced to counseling and ordered not to do it again. Cynics say he'll sit out a year and then be back in football, so he may have plenty of opportunity to test the costs of arrogance again.
But that lingering arrogance can have its costs, too. O. J. Simpson famously beat the charge for murdering his wife. But it cost him huge legal fees, all his endorsements and his movie career, and -- completely and forever -- his reputation. Pathetically, he remained sufficiently arrogant that he thought he could get away with breaking into a hotel room and stealing items of sports memorabilia. And he paid for that arrogance with a 33-year prison sentence.
Pete Rose really lost his career. He can't play any role in baseball: manager, coach, scout, even batboy. And face it, Pete Rose really doesn't know how to do anything that doesn't involve baseball.
Look at the endorsements Tiger Woods lost: Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture to name a few. He lost an estimated $22 million in endorsements the year after he was outed as a serial cheater. Unlike Simpson and (possibly) Rice, he got most of it back. There are still plenty of people who'll wink an eye at serial philandering, especially if it's done by a male. But he's still a locker room joke.
Lenny Dykstra, Mets star from the 1986 World Series champs, got involved in a series of shady business deals that culminated in him facing charges for a series of crimes from bankruptcy fraud to grand theft auto. Ryan Leaf, college superstar quarterback turned NFL bust, is serving five years for burglary. Figure skater Tonya Harding was so convinced she was entitled to be champion, she hired a thug to maim her principal rival.
And one reason why not a few former athletes, with million dollar contracts behind them, are involved in scuzzy crimes like these, is another cost of arrogance: the arrogance that lets them think the big bucks will come floating in forever, because they're entitled to it. A recent study by Wyatt Investment Research offers the startling revelation that 78 percent of professional football players and 60 percent of professional basketball players will file for bankruptcy within five years of retirement. Baseball players are a little better, but they still have four times as many bankruptcies as the average citizen.
Look, there's a very good reason for not doing wrong. Because it's wrong. But there will always be those who have the arrogance to think that they can get away with it, or beat the rap if they don't get away with it. And that arrogance can be a huge drag on an area that even they can understand: the bottom line.