BALTIMORE -- When a little girl’s hero turned into the villain, her father decided to turn the situation into a teaching opportunity.
His powerful message: Be nice to girls.
Bryan Bartlett, along with his wife and two kids, is an avid Baltimore Ravens fan. He even bought his kids -- 9-year-old Bryson and 6-year-old Brynn -- Ray Rice jerseys for Christmas a couple of years ago, according to TODAY Parents.
So when video surfaced earlier this week of Rice violently punching his then-fiancée -- now wife -- in a hotel elevator in February, the Bartletts were disgusted, frustrated, and angry. Bartlett and his wife went to great lengths to make sure their children didn’t see the “horrible” attack.
“It is a tough conversation to have with your children,” Bartlett told the Baltimore Sun. “We explained why you should never been mean to anyone and certainly never hit or hurt anyone. Explained to them that while if they do it now they may end up in timeout or lose a privilege, when they are older the consequences are much more severe and you could lose everything.”
So what to do with those jerseys? Many fans garnered national attention for cutting and burning their No. 27, while others opted to hand the jerseys over to a Baltimore restaurant in exchange for free pizza and drinks.
But Bartlett felt like destroying the jerseys may send a negative message to his kids. Instead, he wanted to lesson to be a positive one.
“It just kind of popped into my head: Rice, nice,” he told TODAY.
With some creativity, a little glue, and a lot of heart, Bartlett gave his daughter’s Rice jersey a major makeover. Instead of representing the disgraced player, it now stands for kindness and respect, particularly towards women.
Bartlett’s wife, Angie, took a photo of Brynn modeling her new-and-improved jersey, which now reads, “Be Nice to Girls,” and posted to her Facebook page.
“How do you explain to your kids that they can no longer wear their Ray Rice Jerseys?” she wrote. “At least Brynn got one more wear out of it.”
Messages of praise and support poured in. The photo has been shared more than 150 times on Facebook and has captured the nation’s attention.
“I was just hopefully teaching my daughter that we expect that guys are always nice to you and treat you with respect,” Bartlett said. “You don’t put up with anybody being mean or hitting you or anything like that ever. It’s just never acceptable.”
After the video of the attack surfaced, the ex-running back was fired from the Ravens and suspended from the NFL indefinitely.