Just before lunch Sunday afternoon, Andre Braithwaite received the most important text of his life.
“It was about 2 o’clock and Bud (Kansas City Comets owner Brian Budzinski) texted me and told me I could play soccer again,” said Braithwaite, whose violent head-butt of Baltimore Blast forward Pate Healey, following a 10-7 season-ending playoff loss on March 18, 2015, resulted in him being banned indefinitely from professional indoor soccer.
“I could play the game I love again. I have been given a second chance and I am going to make the most of it – I promise you, I am going to make the most of it.”
Braithwaite was talking at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena late Sunday, following a two-goal performance in a 7-4 loss to the Milwaukee Wave.
“The last two years, I have been to all the Comets games, I have been working on my game, just in case I was allowed to play again,” he added. “And now, I have that chance.”
The Comets thought Braithwaite would be allowed to play sometime in December, but the team received good news Sunday, and he was added to the roster.
“We knew this was going to happen, we just didn’t know when,” Comets coach Kim Roentved said. “The league was going to let us know when he could play again. The young man made a mistake – a bad mistake – two years ago. But he has done everything possible to redeem himself.”
While much of the details surrounding his return are private, Comets spokesman Jeff Husted said Braithwaite had written a letter of apology to Healey and completed some league-mandated tasks to earn his return to the league.
“I was banned,” said the soft-spoken Braithwaite, whose personality was much different than the brash player who head-butted Healey. “I have kept in shape, worked out, coached youth teams and turned the rest over to God.
“I made a very bad mistake and now, I am living life one day at a time. I learned a big life lesson. I wish it would have never happened, but it did happen, and now I am going to make the most of my return to the game.
“I am very disappointed in the outcome today, but I feel so good because I was able to come back and play with the team I love.”
Following the head-butting incident, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office charged Braithwaite with third-degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor. The head-butt caused a cut on Healey’s head that, according to Healey, required five stitches.
Braithwaite was released by the Comets later that same day.
The matter was eventually resolved, with Braithwaite on the outside looking in.
“There were times I thought about moving back to Jamaica,” the Kingston, Jamaica, native said, “but I couldn’t leave Kansas City. I had a lot of support and prayed that this day would come.
“I’m just glad I got the text before I ate a big lunch. I just had a salad.”
The new-look Comets (1-1), who have just a handful of players from last year’s Central Division championship team, tied the Wave 2-2 at 4:32 of the second period on a goal by Braithwaite.
But the Wave scored three goals in a row and never relinquished that lead.
“We lost the game in the second period,” Roentved said. “We made some mistakes and those mistakes cost of three goals. We came back and played a strong second half, but not strong enough to win.
“But there were plenty of positives today. Andre had a strong game, his teammates welcomed him back with open arms and they say you can learn more from a loss, than a win, so I hope we learned a lot today that will help us later in the season.”