Former Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice filed an appeal of the indefinite suspension imposed upon him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for Rice’s connection with a domestic abuse charge involving his then fiancée last spring. The appeal will be handled on behalf of Ray Rice by the both the NFL Payers’ Association and by an outside counsel recently retained by Rice.
Ray Rice will contend that the indefinite suspension is arbitrary and capricious because he told the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL the truth about the incident. Whether or not such a fact matters is left to be seen because under the terms of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy the Commissioner has the power to discipline a player when he, and he alone, determines that such player exhibits conduct that is detrimental to the league.
The Personal Conduct Policy grants the Commissioner the “full authority to impose discipline as warranted when he learns of a player who does not conduct himself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.” The terms of the Personal Conduct Policy expressly allow for the Commissioner to discipline players in the form of “banishment from the League.”
Commissioner Goodell, who imposed the indefinite suspension upon Ray Rice, will have the ultimate authority over the appeal as well. This is because the indefinite suspension, imposed per the terms of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, allows for the Commissioner to retain jurisdiction over such matters. Yes, Commissioner Goodell in this case, together with most cases involving the NFL, is the prosecutor, jury, judge and appeals judge.
Ray Rice, his legal team, and the Players’ Association will more than likely ask the Commissioner’s Office and the League to designate a hearing officer who has no current connection to the league office. The reason for this is because Commissioner Goodell and other League Office personnel will most likely be called as witnesses during the appeal since Ray Rice’s position is that he should not be subject to such a harsh ruling because he was honest with both the Baltimore Ravens or the Commissioner about the events that occurred between his fiancée and himself on the evening in question. Again, whether or not such a fact is relevant per the terms of the Personal Conduct Policy will be seen.
Requesting an outside hearing officer is the correct thing to do in this matter and should ultimately be granted. Such a request isn’t without precedent since it is what Commissioner Office did in the appeal of the players suspended in connection with the Saints bounty case.