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The Signing That Shouldn’t Have Happened

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This article is about the free agent signing that never should have happened.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.

-Kant

I’d like to talk about Mike Ribeiro.

I know, I know... this makes you uncomfortable. You’ve been uncomfortable (at the very least uncomfortable) about Ribeiro for the last 20 months or so. But hear me out. There’s a lot that needs to be said about Ribeiro being a member of the Nashville Predators for the last couple years and presumably you are a Preds fan.

So let’s talk about Ribeiro and how he never should have been a Predator in the first place.

When Ribeiro signed with the Predators in the summer of 2014, the price tag and the expectations were the same: low and manageable. The team already had a new head coach, Peter Laviolette, a new sniper, James Neal, and a host of young kids ready to show what they could do, like Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok. Ribeiro was a $1 million throwaway chip. He was house money. Why not take a chance on a former 80-point center?

When David Poile signed Ribeiro, he knew he was signing a guy that could dish passes to the best scorers in the league, could handle a puck in crowded taxi cab, and could occasionally put the puck in the net himself. He also knew he was signing a guy with a troubling off-the-ice record, marital problems, and a penchant for contaminating locker rooms.

Poile knew this.

What we don’t know is if that is all that Poile knew.

In the summer of 2015, just after Ribeiro had put up 15 goals and 47 assists in a remarkable comeback season for the Predators, a number of extremely disturbing details were revealed in a complaint filed against him and his wife by a former babysitter. I’ve linked to OTF’s own article about the complaint and the complaint itself. Please understand that these details are graphic in nature and, like I said, extremely disturbing.

The complaint is a more detailed version of an earlier complaint filed back in 2014 that was deemed too vague to be taken seriously and too serious to be ignored; the judge in the case requested a more detailed account, thus the filing in June 2015. Keep this detail in mind.

It is also important to understand that this complaint is of a civil nature, not a criminal one. No criminal charges were filed against Ribeiro or his wife, both of which, via attorneys, have maintained their innocence, saying they will “confront their accuser in a court of law.”

Exactly 18 days after this revised complaint was filed, on July 6th, the lawsuit against Ribeiro and his wife Tamara Williams was settled out of court. Exactly five days before that happened, on July 1st, the Predators signed Ribeiro to a two year, $7 million deal.

Much of the conversation surrounding this disturbing situation dissipated. Few hockey outlets, local or otherwise, gave it more than a second look, though prior to the signing some pleaded for the team to wait for the outcome of the lawsuit before making any moves. Poile wanted to “move on” from the situation. The front office had other free agents to sign, the team had a season to prepare for, and the coaching staff had a game plan to generate.

But Predators fans were angry. They wanted answers. They wanted an explanation as to why the team would sign Ribeiro in the midst of an ongoing sexual assault civil suit, especially when they surely had knowledge of the exact same details that we all knew about. Perhaps most importantly, they wanted to know exactly how long Poile had known about these details, especially given that at least some form of the details had been available around the same time that Ribeiro was originally signed by Nashville back in 2014.

Poile knew about Ribeiro’s locker room issues. He knew about the marital problems. He also knew about this allegation. But did he know all of the details?

We won’t ever know the answer to that. What we do know is that Poile was willing to let Preds fans live with that.

Poile was willing to sign Ribeiro, knowing the uncomfortable ambiguity and the dangerous tension that a player like that brings to the roster, the building, and the city itself. Having a player like Ribeiro on the roster, a guy with as troubling of a personal history as you’ll find in sports, made passionate Predators fans debate whether to attend games and to buy jerseys. It made them question the wholesomeness of the sport and the team they followed. It made them angry at each other on social media, lashing out in frustration over yet another sport that ignores the protection of the vulnerable in order to gain a few more points in the standings.

And how easy it would have been to avoid all of this. How easy it would have been to, back in June/July of 2015, say “thanks, but no thanks” to Ribeiro and send him looking for his sixth NHL team. More than that, how easy it would have been to say “no thanks” to Ribeiro in the first place, back in 2014, especially if you knew there were more skeletons in the closet yet to be revealed. Would any of us have faulted Poile? Would any of us have questioned that decision?

Hardly.

At this point, Ribeiro is a indelible scar on the otherwise commendable history of General Manager David Poile. Inviting that kind of character into the locker room is questionable at best. Inviting him into the welcoming arms of the Predators family borders on unforgivable.

For the past four years, the Predators, to their credit, have promoted MEND Nashville, an organization that is “dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging and educating boys.” A worthy cause, for sure. They recently made a generous $500,000 donation to MEND through the Predators Foundation. I, and many others, applaud that. There is no room for cynicism when it comes to charity, so please, don’t go there. A supported cause is a supported cause.

In the aftermath of the allegations, Dan and Jon asked for help publicizing local organizations that help support survivors of domestic and sexual assault. Through that, they found the Mary Parrish Center and asked for our generous readers to donate whatever they could to the organization. The article has been pinned to our Twitter for over a year and a half:

Again, a supported cause is always a good thing.

But promoting the need to support and protect vulnerable women and girls should not have to happen because our beloved hockey team openly welcomed a guy like Ribeiro back for a second contract. It shouldn’t have come to that. Nashville as a community should want to support and protect the most vulnerable of our neighbors because it is moral and right - not because it is necessary.

This is a signing that shouldn’t have happened. A contract should have never even been on the table. It’s an embarrassing and shameful moment for the franchise, one that I am sure we would all love to forget.

I just hope that we don’t.