Even if you haven't been to Sunday school in awhile, everyone should remember the parable of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-12) from that one time Grandma took you to church against your will. In that parable, a local woman is found to have cheated on her husband with another man. She is found out, and is immediately brought to the temple by the townspeople for sentencing. Referencing Moses' old law from the book of Exodus that demanded stoning as the proper punishment, they ask Jesus what to do in regards to her case. Famously, he states " He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone." (John 8:7, KJV, emphasis added.) Predictably, the mob sets their stones down and realize that none of them are perfect. The lesson that we are supposed to take away from that parable is that even if we want to think that we are, as humans, we can never be perfect. We are all prone to mistakes, and it is those mistakes that lend us our humanity.
Why did I bring up this parable of the adulteress? Because Dan Enos himself referenced it (though indirectly) in a post-practice interview on Wednesday, telling reporters when asked about why he reinstated Rawls despite the charge, "If you've ever made a mistake in your life, step forward." There are also plenty of parallels that can be drawn between the parable and Rawls' situation. They both involve the law providing clemency, the crowd generally disapproving of the action, and the accused making a mistake and dealing with the consequences.
Thomas Rawls has found himself in his proverbial temple for punishment by the general public, who see his guilty plea to larceny as an offense that should keep him off of the field, even despite his guilty plea only being a result of a plea bargain that granted Rawls an adjusted probation sentence that would allow him to play football for the Chippewas, in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendants.
Many critics have made the case that Rawls' reinstatement by the Central Michigan football team would be proof positive that Coach Dan Enos and his staff do not care about character at all, but only about winning games. These critics feel that Rawls should continue to face an indefinite suspension for committing larceny, even despite having served his time in the eyes of the law.
However, with the public's clarion call for Rawls' head and Enos' job, there are a couple of things that are forgotten in all this. The legal system did nothing to show any favoritism towards Rawls; the plea bargain agreed to is similar to what a prosecutor would offer a similar defendant in a similar case. Rawls' lawyer negotiating the adjusted probation was in the best interest of his client, and for the court to approve it makes it legal and acceptable as his punishment. It is not uncommon for such negotiation tactics to occur between the prosecution and the defendant's representation. Therefore to claim favoritism is to ignore the fact that it's essentially standard procedure in most courtrooms.
Also, it must also be kept in mind that this was the first crime that Rawls had been accused of committing, and that according to the criminal complaint filed May 16th, Rawls testified that he never opened the purse or used the card himself. Rawls and his co-defendants had not been drinking, and Rawls had never been arrested before turning himself in. Rawls must have known that what he did was a mistake. Otherwise, he would have evaded the police at all costs, like his former teammates Ryan Oruche and Andrew Flory did. We know what happened to them.
I acknowledge that this is a heady time when it comes to crime in sports. Just in the past month, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, Jonathon Dwyer, and Ray Rice have all been accused of varying agrees of domestic abuse. In the past, Ben Roethlisberger had been suspended after being accused of sexual misconduct, Michael Vick went to prison for two years after running a dog fighting ring in Virginia, Donte' Stallworth faced some jail time for manslaughter, and Aaron Hernandez was blacklisted after killing multiple people while donning a Patriots uniform.
While Rawls' crime was nowhere near as impactful as those crimes, it is somehow being held to the same standard in the public court. "Well [Player X] committed a crime, and plead guilty. He shouldn't be able to play the game anymore! He missed his chance!" Well, Roethlisberger, Vick, and Stallworth were all given chances to play in the NFL again after their time away from the league. Roethlisberger has lead the Steelers to multiple playoff runs and has stayed out of trouble since his suspension, which many people don't remember that much. Vick has taken a mentor role with both Nick Foles and Geno Smith since his return to the league, and is generally regarded as a leader on his teams, due to his life experiences. Peterson, Hardy, McDonald, and Dwyer currently are waiting for the arm of the law to make a decision regarding their cases. Only Hernandez and Rice have faced severe punishment for their crimes.
I thought that as an American society, where we're all about giving people second chances. There is a reason the criminal justice system is constructed the way it is here; it is in place so that if someone breaks common law, society can reprimand the offender and force him to serve his time to community. The hope is, after the sentence has been served, that the offender can become a functioning member of soceity once again, having learned form his mistakes. Rawls has done his crime. He has committed his time in the form of testimony, as well as a probation sentence. This is different from the other cases during Coach Enos' career, such as the Flory/Oruche case, or the Austin White case from a few years back. Those students were given second chances and blew them, especially White. Rawls has appeared genuinely embarrassed about his situation, and seems to have come to grips with it. and learned from it. He is ready to move on, and football is a healthy outlet for him to help with that.
If we, as a society, continue to ask for someone's head after one mistake, whether it be committing a crime, or even something as minor as an off-color comment on a social media website, then we all may as well be headless. As a social media body, we, for some reason, expect nothing less than perfection from everyone. Once somebody slips, the entirety of a social network will jump on that person and beat them, sometimes without knowing the whole situation beforehand. On top of this expectation of perfection, we also expect a chance to redeem ourselves if we made a mistake, but conversely, don't necessarily allow others their opportunity to redeem themselves. One action or one comment is never indicative of a person's entire character. We must give people the benefit of the doubt unless they have already soiled that opportunity. It is only the right thing to do.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I know that I will personally be cheering a little louder every time Rawls touches the ball this year. He could use the encouragement.