It seems like more often than not when we hear about jocks and bullying, it’s the jocks that are doing the bullying. And while it’s a stereotype that earned its keep by being true an unfortunate percentage of the time, it’s a stereotype nonetheless and doesn’t apply to all athletes.
That’s why when someone so defies the stereotype, it’s worth mentioning. Ray Rice is quickly becoming a hero to many teens for a bigger reason than his career. The superstar running back for the Baltimore Ravens might have gone to the Superbowl this year, but if you take a look at his Facebook page, you might not know it. It’s plastered with posts about ending bullying, links to programs and organizations that kids can go to for support, and heartfelt appeals to fans to help end bullying for good.
Ray Rice has been an ant-bullying advocate for some time, and in 2012 he hosted a number of rallies for the cause. Most recently, Rice has gained media attention for guiding the public eye to the story of an 11-year-old victim of bullying: Bailey O’Neill.
Bailey was a student at Darby Township School in Pennsylvania until recently. He was bullied at school, beaten up by the other children, and soon after began having serious seizures. Doctors had to place him in a medically induced coma to stop the seizures, and he never woke up. His brain activity eventually ceased and his family took him off life support just one day after his 12th birthday.
Rice spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Bailey’s family, listening to their story, their sadness, their frustration, and their grief. After receiving permission from the family, he posted a message on his Facebook wall, speaking up for Bailey, promising to fight to end bullying, and calling for others to do the same.
“Bailey—my little buddy, I will not let you become just another bully statistic… you are my inspiration and one more angel that will help me continue the fight for kids everywhere. You are going to help me save lives. RIP my little friend.”