The NFL Players Association was put in a tough spot with former Ravens running back Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension. It’s safe to assume it didn’t want to appear to be condoning domestic violence. But there’s also good reason to believe that Rice’s rights as a union member were violated by commissioner Roger Goodell as he tried to make up for his own mistakes.
The NFLPA officially filed an appeal on behalf of Rice on Tuesday, with a carefully worded statement that made it clear it was protecting the rights of “all NFL players,” not necessarily siding with Rice and his actions:
“Today, the NFL Players Association formally filed an appeal of the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice by the NFL. This action taken by our union is to protect the due process rights of all NFL players.
“The NFLPA appeal is based on supporting facts that reveal a lack of a fair and impartial process, including the role of the office of the Commissioner of the NFL. We have asked that a neutral and jointly selected arbitrator hear this case as the Commissioner and his staff will be essential witnesses in the proceeding and thus cannot serve as impartial arbitrators.”
One of the additional points made in the statement is that “an employee cannot be punished twice for the same action when all of the relevant facts were available to the employer at the time of the first punishment.” That’s a point Goodell should have to answer to. He told USA Today that Rice’s account of what happened differed from what the full video showed. ESPN reported last week that Rice told Goodell what happened during the incident in the elevator. The latter would be consistent with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome’s quote that Rice told them what happened and that after seeing the video he didn’t feel Rice lied about it.
Goodell should have to answer to what he knew, but the same commissioner who makes players speak to the media after games and during the week has been hiding from the media for most of the last nine days while this controversy has boiled.
Goodell gave Rice a two-game suspension initially, then increased it to an indefinite one after public pressure got very intense, following the full video’s release. It’s impossible to defend what Rice did, but it’s also pretty hard to defend Goodell if he was told exactly what happened, didn’t seem to work very hard to get the video (which one report said was in the NFL offices) and then reacted to public pressure by increasing Rice’s suspension … because he screwed it up in the first place. There’s also a possibility that Rice did mislead or outright lie to Goodell during the meeting, in which case the increased suspension would be justified.
There are no winners in this whole scenario. The NFLPA seems to understand that as well. But it had to do its job for all of its members