NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- When Ray Rice was a student at Isaac E. Young Middle School he was found in possession of a BB Gun Pistol, multiple sources who worked in the building at the time have told Talk of the Sound.
The weapon was confiscated. Rice faced disciplinary action but no criminal charges were ever filed.
New Rochelle Board of Education Policy classifies a BB Gun Pistol as a "deadly or dangerous weapon".
Rice was already a rising star in the New Rochelle Youth Tackle Football program. The issue was hushed up then - and ever since.
The incident provides context for a carefully-worded statement by New Rochelle High School Football Coach Lou DeRienzo which went unnoticed by the dozens of media outlets covering Rice's appearance at the schools' varsity football game against Ramapo High School on Saturday.
During half-time of the game, DeRienzo appeared before the national media to offer a full-throated defense of Ray Rice while carefully dancing around the weapon incident (video above).
"What does having him here mean to you today?" (1:22 mark), asked one reporter.
"I've known Ray Rice since he was in 8th grade and he's had one misstep in the years that I've known him," replied DeRienzo. (emphasis added)
There is a lot more about New Rochelle High School Football Coach Lou DeRienzo that will not stand up to the sort of national media scrutiny that he has invited with his publicity stunt on Saturday. DeRienzo can only hope that the glare of the media spotlight has moved on after getting their first glimpse of Rice in public since the TMZ elevator video was released.
There are three main flaws with DeRienzo's program.
1. DeRienzo has, for years, opposed academic eligibility standards for New Rochelle High School football players. And with good reason. There are serious concerns within the New Rochelle community about whether New Rochelle football players are well-served academically by the high school. Without any independent vetting of academic performance and no statistics to analyze, DeRienzo can make whatever claims he wants about the academic performance of his players without fear of contradiction.
2. Then there is the issue of playing fast-and-loose with the residency requirements of some players. As part of a broader District-wide issue that has gone on for years, the District is notorious for allowing non-residents to attend school in the District with phony residency records.
3. Football coaches, including DeRienzo, work what amount to no-show jobs as physical education teachers, often assigned to a nearly nonexistent "night program". Students say that DeRienzo is rarely seen teaching his assigned classes during football season.
At its core, this is a classic case of "Joe Paterno syndrome" writ small, at the high school level, where the entire administration -- the Athletic Director, the High School Principal, the Superintendent and School Board all grovel at the feet of the successful head coach.
As demonstrated by DeRienzo's ability to stomp his feet and get his way over the issue of the Ray Rice jerseys and his organizing a media event for Rice at Saturday's football game both over the objections of the school district administration, it is the football coach who runs the New Rochelle School District.
For years, the answer to every criticism of DeRienzo and his program has been "Ray Rice". That answer is not looking as good as it once did.
The unprecedented spectacle at New Rochelle High School this past weekend, organized by DeRienzo on behalf of the disgraced former NFL star, was a carefully stage-managed event.
It was Ray Rice's first public appearance since TMZ released a video of Rice punching and spitting on his wife in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, a heavily choreographed media event played out on school grounds over the objections of the administration of the City School District of New Rochelle.
On Monday, DeRienzo jetted off to Baltimore to be with Rice and his family.
By Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne ordered all Ray Rice memorabilia, jerseys, photos and other honors removed from every building in the school district.
At Isaac E. Young Middle School this order was complied with, in full.
At New Rochelle High School, a photo and plaque on the school's Wall of Fame was removed but DeRienzo, back in New York, blocked efforts to remove Rice jerseys in the school's gymnasium and weight room by threatening to resign if the jerseys were removed. A compromise was reached where one jersey, Rice's #27 Baltimore Ravens jersey would be removed while two others remained.
The New York Daily News reported that on Saturday, before the game, DeRienzo had Rice's #27 Baltimore Ravens jersey displayed in the football team's locker room.
After repeatedly thumbing his nose at administration officials, DeRienzo was asked during his half-time interview if there was any pushback from the administration on Rice appearing at the game.
"No pushback at all," said DiRienzo.
Setting aside the issue of Ray Rice for a moment, what sort of administration is it that allows a self-interested, self-absorbed football coach to dictate terms on policy directives, all in the midst of the single-greatest media hurricane ever to descend on New Rochelle?
Prior to the game, New Rochelle High School Principal Reggie Richardson gave a series of media interviews. During each interview he was asked whether Rice would be at the game. Richardson repeatedly professed ignorance of any plans for Rice to attend the game, going so far as to tell CBS News that he had "no idea" of how a story got out that Rice would be at the game.
At the very moment Richardson was making these claims, Rice was huddled with DeRienzo inside the high school preparing to make his grand entrance.
Richardson made these preposterous claims while standing in a designated media area set up by the District's Public Relations firm which happened to be located directly across from where Rice and his entourage stood during the first half of the game.
Why did the Principal think he was being interviewed by CNN, CBS News, NBC and two dozen other national and New York metro reporters, media not typically assigned to cover high school football games in New Rochelle.
And yet he had no idea Rice was coming?
While both Richardson and DeRienzo waxed eloquent about their respective concern for the students, they both stood before the public and the media and flat out lied.
Some statements by DeRienzo were not lies but just downright bizarre.
Asked about the player's reactions to Rice, DeRienzo said:
"They love Ray Rice because Ray Rice has given them a lot."
Well, who wouldn't? Is this the standard by which DeRienzo evaluates the situation?
Asked about Rice as a role model DeRienzo came across as grateful to Rice.
"What a better way to explain the message and my kids got that message last night, 20 seconds or 30 seconds of a bad decision has effected this young man's life forever and they need to think before they act. I think my kids are getting great lessons in terms of making a mistake, admitting it, not repeating it and learning from it so what better lesson than to learn it from an NFL superstar."
Sounds a lot like DeRienzo wants to thank Rice for punching out his wife and thus helping him teach his players how to be more responsible.
Nowhere in his remarks did DeRienzo address what Rice actually did to his wife.
DeRienzo told the media that there are two important lessons from Rice's brutal assault of his wife: (1) "think before you act"; and (2) "when you make a mistake, admit it, and don't do it again". Isn't there supposed to be a line in there about "accepting the consequences of your actions"?
Not a word from DeRienzo about domestic violence. Nothing about violence against women or violence generally. Nothing much about anything but Ray and Lou and Lou and Ray -- it was all about how Lou feels about Ray, what it meant to Lou that Ray was at the game, what Ray has done for Lou's team in the past, what valuable lessons Ray had taught Lou's team, what good things Ray will do for Lou's team in the future.
When a reporter interrupts to ask DeRienzo about the message being sent to women by Rice's appearance he comes across as oblivious.
"What about those cheerleaders on the sidelines, those women who are watching this game?" a reporter asks.
"Those women got the same exact message from their coach that my players got from me," replied DeRienzo.
Because that exact same message would be (1) "think before you act"; and (2)"when you make a mistake, admit it, and don't do it again".
Does DeRienzo believe that women seeing the horrific elevator video identify with Ray Rice, the abuser?
Or perhaps that like Janay Rice, the victim, they should learn to apologize if they are assaulted by their boyfriend?
Why would women at the game need to get "the same exact message" as the boys on his football team?
Arguably, one of the more tone-deaf media performances since Donald Sterling was interviewed by Anderson Cooper.