Michael Kasdan provides the quick take-aways from today’s ruling.
Earlier today, as reported by The Washington Post and others, former Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice won the appeal of his indefinite suspension from the NFL.
The suspension for violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy stemmed from a domestic violence incident this past summer in which Rice struck his then-fiance-now-wife, Janay Rice, in a casino elevator. Original video footage that was released showed Ray Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Rice out of the elevator, after which Rice was suspended for a mere two games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
However, after additional video footage of Rice’s act from inside the elevator was released by TMZ in September – resulting in a firestorm of criticism and calling into question the NFL’s internal investigation of the incident – the League increased the suspension to ‘indefinite,’ and the Ravens released him.
Rice appealed his suspension, and the decision in that appeal was issued today. The Judge found that the NFL’s issuing a second suspension for the same incident was an abuse of discretion:
“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated . . . . I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary.”
The immediate impact of today’s ruling is that Ray Rice is free to sign with any team in the National Football League.
The quick takeaways?
1. This is another huge black eye for the NFL and its Commissioner Goodell.
Essentially, the decision on the appeal is saying is that Goodell had—or should have had—all the facts he needed to issue a suspension well before the second video was released in September and that—because of the NFL and Goodell’s incompetence and due to no fault of Rice—the League’s attempt to correct the lenient sentence first imposed was unfair.
2. It will be interesting to see if there is another team that takes a chance on Rice.
Past history – for example, Michael Vick (and many others)—says that there will be. Yes, he has to rehabilitate his image, and the team signing him will take on some baggage, but many teams have proved willing to do that for talented athletes. Does Rice at this point in his career fit that description? Unclear.
For his part, Rice released a statement saying:
“I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. . . . I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue. I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes.”
We live in a nation of second chances.
However, in this case, the indefinite suspension from the League was the proper punishment for Rice’s actions. The message should be that if you commit this kind of violence and abuse, there is no place for you in this League. Only through serious and real responses to serious actions, can we expect change. To do the opposite, perpetuates a corrosive culture of entitlement and privilege around star athletes.
Unfortunately, because the League did not properly address the incident, instead issuing a slap on the wrist two-game suspension and then only seeking to increase it after a video was released that made them look incredibly bad, the message—at least for now—is badly muddled.
And Ray Rice likely will be on the field playing football again soon.
For more of our coverage of Ray Rice and related issues, see the following:
Checking Athletes’ Privilege (Oct. 28, 2014)
Roger S. Goodell, Will You Please Go Now? (Sept. 22, 2014)
Ray Rice, Janay Rice, the NFL and TMZ: Many Sides, One Missing Topic (Sept. 10, 2014)
Ray Rice is Out of the NFL: But Why Did it Take Until Monday? (Sept. 8, 2014)
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass