Ray Rice Appeals Suspension: Roger Goodell and NFL Have a Big Problem


September 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines before the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So the world continues to turn for the NFL, in now a week and a half that has to be one of the darkest in league history. Roger Goodell has come under much fire for how he has handled the Ray Rice case, as we all know by now. The light suspension. What did Goodell know? When did he know it? Did he see the tape prior to rendering his decision? Why the 180 degree turn all of a sudden?

First of all, to his credit, Goodell is trying to take a harsh stance on the issue of domestic violence. His change is stance shows the world how he feels on the matter, and he is trying to change the way it is handled in the league. Goodell has also brought women on board to help shape discipline in the future, which is another smart move. Goodell is taking the right steps.

Recently, the NFLPA filed their appeal on behalf of Ray Rice. As admirable as most feel the current punishment is, and the good message that it finally sends, there is one problem.

There is no way that it will stand up on appeal.

First of all, the league is going to have to bring in an impartial arbitrator to hear the appeal. After all that has gone on, if they bring in one of their own appeal officers, the appearance of bias will be obvious. The NFLPA will not get what they want, the case will end up in court, and it will tie everyone up in it for far too long. So Goodell will have to bring someone in from the outside to hear the case.

Once that is done, the penalty, as currently constituted, is finished.

First of all, take a look at this passage from the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) regarding “One Penalty”:

The Commissioner and a Club will not both discipline a player for the same act or conduct. The Commissioner’s disciplinary action will preclude or supersede disciplinary action by any Club for the same act or conduct.

In a sense, by being released by the Ravens, and suspended by Goodell indefinitely, Ray Rice is being punished twice for the same issue, once by the team, and once by the league. That goes in direct violation of the passage above.

This argument may not hold water, however, because the team and the league could say that releasing him is not discipline, and the arbitrator could agree with that.

That, however, is not the only reason Goodell has a problem with this punishment.

Aug 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs with the ball during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The definition of “due process”, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “a course of formal proceedings (as legal proceedings) carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles”. In short, there is a process in place, that procedure must be followed, discipline is given out per that process, and that is it. That is the end of the situation.

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In this case, however, Ray Rice was disciplined twice. He was given a two game suspension, and then, he was given an indefinite suspension. Essentially, as justified as the new punishment is, Ray Rice had his due process rights violated. If this was the punishment Roger Goodell wanted to give out, he needed to do it first. Doing it second violates the due process rights of Ray Rice, and the NFLPA will be all over it. They will win too, if the arbitrator is truly independent.

And this is not the only case that the league has a problem.

Adrian Peterson is a problem, more for the Vikings. As we all know by now, he has been deactivated by the team. Well, take a look at this quote from the CBA regarding discipline for Conduct Detrimental to a Club:

maximum fine of an amount equal to one week’s salary and/or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed four (4) weeks. This maximum applies without limitation to any deactivation of a player in response to player conduct(other than a deactivation in response to a player’s on-field playing ability), and any such deactivation, even with pay, shall be considered discipline subject to the limits set forth in this section.

Obviously, there is no argument that Adrian Peterson is being deactivated due to his playing ability. He’s Adrian Peterson. Obviously, he is being deactivated due to conduct detrimental. So, if it goes longer than four weeks, the Vikings will be in violation of the CBA.

Finally, the NFL and its teams are trying to do it right with regards to these punishments. But they had better follow the rules, or none of it will stick.

They are in trouble with the Ray Rice situation. They may be in trouble with others.

What do you guys think? Do you interpret it differently? Do you agree? Tell me what you think.