As expected (but a day later than expected), the NFLPA has filed an appeal of the NFL’s indefinite suspension of Ray Rice.
“This action taken by our union is to protect the due process rights of all NFL players,” the NFLPA said in a statement.
“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,” the union added. “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.”
The union is right, on both counts. Regardless of Rice’s behavior, he has rights. He has been suspended twice for the same conduct. The NFL arguably knew or should have known all it needed to know about the details of Rice’s behavior when levying the initial two-game suspension.
The league contends Rice lied about what happened. The hearing will sort out what he said about what he did, to the team and to the league. Apart from the testimony from witnesses like Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell, Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome (who has said Rice didn’t lie), and others, the appeal will attack the league’s failure to secure the video of the incident. If there was any doubt or ambiguity or inconsistency or perceived lie, all the league had to do was get the tape.
“Under governing labor law, 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,” the union said in its statement. “The hearing will require a neutral arbitrator to determine what information was available to the NFL and when it was available.”
Amen to that. At a time when the investigator hired by the NFL isn’t as independent as he could have been, this process will create another avenue for getting to the truth. By rule, a hearing date must be set within 10 days.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the truth? After eight days of no one from the NFL or a handful of its teams wanting to confront the truth in a variety of cases, this appeal could eventually get to The Truth about the Rice video — and it could end up being far more relevant and useful to determining the future of the league office than a not-so-independent investigation overseen by two of the NFL’s owners who necessarily support the status quo.