The NFL Players Association has released a statement at the conclusion of Ray Rice’s appeals hearing, and that statement focuses on the fact that this time, Roger Goodell is not the judge, jury and executioner.
Rice is appealing the indefinite suspension Goodell handed down after video of Rice punching his wife in an elevator was published two months ago. The NFLPA’s statement notes that this is the first time Goodell has agreed to the union’s request that someone other than Goodell make the final decision.
“The NFLPA thanks Judge Barbara Jones for presiding over a fair and thorough hearing,” the statement says. “This is the first time in the history of our League that a disciplinary hearing has been conducted pursuant to a joint agreement on a neutral arbitrator. We commend NFL owners and officials for the wisdom of this decision which enhances the credibility and integrity of our business.
“The collectively bargained rights of all players must be vehemently preserved and we take that obligation seriously. This appeal, presided over by a neutral arbitrator, which included a presentation of all the relevant facts, witness testimony to the truth and cross examination, is the due process that every athlete deserves.”
Goodell was harshly criticized for his lenience when he initially suspended Rice for just two games. Now Rice is hoping that Judge Jones will agree to set aside Goodell’s second sentence and make Rice eligible to play again.
As a practical matter for Rice, this won’t make a difference any time soon, as it’s extremely unlikely that any team would be willing to take on the bad PR that would come with signing Rice this year. But for the NFLPA, this appeal hearing was important because it was the first time that Goodell agreed to let someone else call the shots.