It’s really sad that we live in a world where we can’t trust people anymore, even the ones who thought they were are friends. The ruling on Wednesday for former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker is a great example of this.
Rucker was sentenced to 21 months in prison for stealing money from charities to satisfy his gambling habit. Last February, Rucker plead guilty to the charges of wire fraud and false statement charges after the Federal Bureau of Investigations determined that Rucker stole over $100,000 from the charities.
Since this news broke last year, it has hit me pretty hard. For those of you that don’t know, from 2009 to 2014, I served as the sports producer at WEWS NewsChannel 5, the ABC affiliate in Cleveland. One of my responsibilities was to produce the stations weekly half hour sports show, the Ford Sports Sunday, on Sunday nights.
During the football season, the show was focused strictly on the Cleveland Browns. Instead of just showing the game highlights and hearing from the players on coaches about the game, my sports director Andy Baskin would turn the show into more of a sports talk show format. We would have weekly guests come into the studio and breakdown some of the big moments in the game. Rucker was a weekly guest during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons along with current Fox SportsTime Ohio Indians on field reporter Andre Knott.
I would always look forward to Sunday nights, no matter if the Browns surprised everybody with an upset victory or ripped our hearts out again by finding a new way to lose. Either way, I knew Rucker was not going hide his feelings towards his former team.
Rucker would always treat me with class and respect and I would do the same. I would always ask for his thoughts on the big topics not just involving the Browns but the NFL in general before the show. Rucker would never let me forget his ‘golden rule’ and what the NFL really stands for, not for long.
Of all the shows Rucker was a part of, one stood out the most to me. On December 16, 2012, Rucker made his weekly appearance along with Baskin, Knott and former head coach Sam Rutigliano. That night however, there was another special guest, the greatest running back of all time, Jim Brown. Riucker and Brown were very good friends behind the scenes and Rucker was able to convince Brown to be a guest on the show.
It was a real honor to have Brown on the show. My only regret was that the show was only 30 minutes, once you eliminate the commercials, it’s about 18-20 minutes of content time. 20 minutes was certainly not enough time with the great Jim Brown. After the show was over, the guys did a special segment for the channel 5 website. The guys just talked and before you know it, an hour had flown right by.
Fast forward to now, while on assignment at my current job as a vacation relief technician at Fox-8 where I shoot and edit video for the news, I was assigned to cover a stop the violence rally last Sunday on Cleveland’s east side. Brown was the key note speaker at the rally and press conference. While I was focused on the task at hand, I could not ignore the fact of what has happened to the relationship between two very good friends in Rucker and Brown.
Mr. Brown greeted me very professionally when I entered the church where the press conference and rally took place at. I returned the greeting just as professionally as he did for me. While I would highly doubt he would remember me from that night at the NewsChannel 5 studios in 2012, it was really nice at how professional and classy he was to me along with the other members of the media who were in attendance.
I wish I could say the same for Rucker now. Needless to say, I lost a lot of respect for the 68-year old former Browns wide receiver because of his addiction and now his upcoming jail time.
While gambling can be a real problem, going behind a friends’ back is even worse. Rucker certainly broke a ‘golden rule’ that we all should follow, be there for the ones you care about the most, family and friends.
Hopefully Rucker learns his lesson over the next 21 months. You don’t steal from your friends, it will only cost you in the end.