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Culture
Steph Martin

Stephanie Martin, a writer and editor in Colorado, has 20 years of Christian publishing experience.

Newark, NJ—After ESPN aired video of him physically and verbally abusing players, Rutgers University head basketball coach Mike Rice was fired this week. Previously, Rice had been suspended and fined in an effort to rehabilitate him. But Athletic Director Tim Pernetti admitted on Wednesday that that strategy had been a mistake.

“There are certain words…and actions…that are not acceptable no matter who you are and where you work,” Pernetti said.

On the videos, Rice throws basketballs at players and berates them with epithets. “There’s no explanation for what’s on those videos because there’s no excuse for it. I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry,” said Rice, 44. “I’ve let so many people down.”

Rice, who’s always been known for his intensity, was paid more than $655,000 last year. He’ll reportedly receive a $100,000 bonus despite being fired.

Many people expressed outrage at Rice’s treatment of players, and some are calling for other university officials to be fired as well. The Athletic Director has resigned over this. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie expressed hope that Rutgers will find a coach who “will make everyone proud of the example he sets every day for the young men in his charge.”

Some Rutgers players came forward to say Rice’s outbursts were isolated incidents. Other athletes said demeaning language is common in sports. Former NBA player John Amaechi said, “There’s no context where [Rice’s] management style is appropriate.”

New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said, “You expect a coach to be tough with his players and somewhat forceful, but to actually throw basketballs at their heads and kick them and call them names and slurs…I don’t think that’s representative of a university.” Gusciora added, “Student athletes deserve…a coach who knows how to motivate them with abusing them.”

Sources: espn.com, cnn.com, Associated Press, foxnews.com, si.com

Discussion Questions:

  • How did you feel when you saw or heard about this video? What might cause someone to engage in that kind of speech and behavior?
  • Was it a mistake to give Rice a chance to change his ways? Should other people lose their jobs because of this? Why or why not? Do you admire Rice for not trying to make excuses for how he acted?
  • When is intensity a positive trait, and when does it cross over into being negative? What’s the difference between being intense and losing your cool?
  • Why is controlling one’s temper often difficult? What struggles, if any, do you face in this area, and how have you tried to change?
  • What responsibilities do we have to set examples with our actions? Who looks up to you for ideas about how to behave and talk? What do you think they’ve learned from you, and why?
  • What are some effective and ineffective ways to motivate people? Can a teacher, parent, or coach be “tough” without being abusive? If so, explain.
  • Why are words so powerful? What are some ways that words can build people up and tear people down? Think of a time when you’ve had to try to undo damage caused by your words: Why is this so difficult?
  • How would you handle a situation where you experienced or witnessed physical or verbal abuse? Is it best to intervene directly or to seek outside help?

Scripture links: Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 29:11; Ephesians 4:26-32; Philippians 3:17; Titus 1:7-9; and James 3:1-12.

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