Former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice won an appeal last Friday that makes him immediately eligible to return to the NFL. This past summer, Rice was given a two-game ban, then in September, an indefinite ban, by the NFL after a video was released of Rice punching his fiancee, Janay Palmer (now Janay Rice), unconscious in an elevator then dragging her out.
Initially, both Rice and his fiancee were arrested on simple assault charges, but charges against his fiancee were dropped. After the NFL announced the two-game suspension, activists were outraged that the discipline imposed was no worse than the punishment a player would receive for minor offenses. Then, on September 8, TMZ released a video of the February assault. Public outcry was swift. The NFL issued a statement saying that the League had not seen the video before it was leaked by TMZ and announced that Rice’s suspension would be “indefinite.”
An employee who worked for the hotel in which the footage was shot claimed the NFL had seen the video before they decided to suspend Rice.
Rice appealed his his indefinite suspension, claiming that he was sanctioned twice for the same conduct. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell maintained that he had been “misled” when he issued the two-game suspension since he did not know of the extent of Rice’s attack on his now-wife.
Arbitrator, former Judge Barbara S. Jones, however, found no evidence that Rice lied to the NFL about the domestic assault or that Goodell was misled. To the contrary, Judge Jones found that “any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event, but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence.”
“That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record,” she continued, “also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”
National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill put it more succinctly. “Goodell has insisted that Ray Rice misled him about what happened in that elevator in Atlantic City. But it turns out Goodell knew the truth all along—he just didn’t care.” NOW continues to call for Goodell’s resignation and for a comprehensive, independent investigation into the NFL’s response to domestic violence.
The NFL in September formed an Advisory Board to explore institutional reforms related to relationship violence and sexual assault. After first creating a board with no women of color, the NFL agreed to appoint one African American woman. The outcome of the Advisory Board’s work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Ray Rice is now a free agent who can sign with any team. ESPN reports that at least four teams have already shown interest.
Media Resources: ESPN 11/30/14; NFL 11/28/14; National Organization for Women 11/28/14; Feminist Newswire 11/17/14, 9/29/14, 9/18/14; Huffington Post 9/8/14,