He does plenty of things I disagree with, I'm rarely comfortable believing anything he says, and in my first three seasons covering the Gators, his behavior around the media was usually standoffish and lame (he's been better this year).
With that said, I'm 100 percent on his side when it comes to his handling of Chris Rainey.
You know the story by now: "Time to Die," suspension, lawyer time, reduced charges, back to practice, fulfills vague behavioral requirements and now, Rainey will make his return this weekend against Georgia.
Yes, this is a crucial time and the Gators are in serious need of Rainey's services, but that's not the whole picture. Rainey made a mistake, accepted his punishment and should be allowed to play again. He fulfilled his duties to the legal system and then sat out a game. Are we really going to hold football teams to a standard higher than that? If your answer is yes, then you should also be disgusted with the academic standards at schools like Florida that admit students with subpar grades because they're big and fast. If that's you, the ideal time to switch your fandom is next weekend in Nashville. Buy a Vandy shirt.
But Rainey's case also raises a touchy subject: violence against women. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi wrote this week that Meyer should have kicked Rainey to the curb and taken a stand for women everywhere. Check it out. Sure, Meyer could have done that, but this wasn't the time to make such a statement. Meyer has had several cases of actual violence against women (Avery Atkins, suspended and transferred; Ronnie Wilson, kicked off team; Jacques Rickerson, kicked off team) and came down harder. Wilson and Rickerson also had prior suspensions for unrelated incidents.
Rainey's was not a serious case. Maybe that looks insensitive, but anyone who has met Rainey knew as soon as this story broke that it was another stupid, speak-before-you-think act without much of a real threat behind it. His similar statements in this category had been funny, when he professed his love for white girls and said "It's good to be Chris Rainey." This was far from a laugher, but not even the ex-girlfriend he sent it to took it literally.
The next morning, she stood up in court and said she didn't want charges pressed, adding that she never felt threatened and only called police to defuse the situation. Here's her full statement (along with her sister) from when the charges against Rainey were reduced to a misdemeanor:
“We would like to make a statement in regards to the incident on the night of September 14 between us and Chris Rainey. First and foremost, we want the public to know that any violence or potential violence against any person is unacceptable and needs to be seen as a very serious matter. We encourage anyone to follow our lead and call the police if involved in any situation where violence is possible. With that said, there are some key facts in this case that we would like the public to know. We have known Chris Rainey for three years and never during that time has he displayed any violent or threatening behavior towards us or anyone. To our knowledge, Chris does not drink alcohol or use drugs. His actions that night were out of character for reasons unknown to us, which is why we stood up in court on his behalf. The police we called that night to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We knew this was a particularly sensitive situation because of Chris’s position on the UF football team, which is why his last name was not given to the 911 operator. We felt this was a private, personal matter, and did not want it to become the media frenzy that it has become. The lack of sensitivity to our privacy has been disturbing, and we ask that our privacy be respected moving forward. We are in full support of the decision made by the State Attorney.”
Bianchi spoke to the director of a domestic violence shelter, who said she's skeptical of the statement because abused women often defend those who harm them. I certainly can't argue with someone who deals with these cases every day, but similarly, she's in no position to pass judgment on Rainey and the victim without knowing their case.
The people who did understand the situation (state's attorney, the victim, Meyer) are all in agreement that Rainey should be free to play football. Those who disagree are the ones on the outside looking in.
If what Rainey did is infinitely repulsive to you, don't cheer for him. But as far as whether he should have been allowed back on the team, I believe the case was handled correctly.
What would you have done with Rainey? Kick him straight off the team? Suspend him for more games? Bring him back for Miss St. after his legal duties were fulfilled? Please share your thoughts below, complete with all the usual back-and-forth that has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand.