Along with the NFL Players Association, Rice appealed his suspension. In a double-jeopardy-type defense, Rice said he told [Roger] Goodell exactly what happened in the elevator during a meeting held after the first video was released, which meant that the release of the more graphic footage should not have resulted in a second penalty.
Meanwhile, Goodell maintained that the second video showed a “starkly different sequence of events” than those described to him by Rice. (Among other things, Goodell claimed that Rice told him that he had merely slapped Janay and that she subsequently fell into a railing and knocked herself unconscious, but that story didn’t appear anywhere in the records of the meeting.) In the end, former federal judge Barbara S. Jones sided with Rice.
Scott Lemieux comments:
Yes, if the NFL had a competently designed system of punishment, knocking a woman unconscious would not merit a significantly lower suspension than using recreational drugs. Nonetheless, the NFL did not have such a system when Rice committed the offense (and, for that matter, doesn’t now, but anyway.) The idea that Rice should retroactively receive a greater punishment than Goodell thinks a domestic offender should get in a standard announced after the fact because he “lied to Goodell” is absurd on its face. And the absurdity is compounded by the fact that it’s vastly more likely that Goodell is lying than Rice is.
Kevin Drum also warily approves of the decision:
Ray Rice committed a crime. We have a system for dealing with crimes: the criminal justice system. Employers are not good candidates to be extrajudicial arms for punishing criminal offenders, and I would be very, very careful about thinking that they should be.
Kavitha A. Davidson has more on the labor angle:
The ruling in no way exonerates Rice. It is not an excuse for his actions or a sign that his brutal beating of his wife was not deserving of stiff punishment. It’s not a commentary that domestic violence discipline is out of the NFL’s purview. It’s not even an explicit acknowledgement that Ray Rice deserves a second chance to play professional football.
Rather, this ruling is purely an indictment of the entire NFL disciplinary process.
Ed Morrissey considers Rice’s future in football:
Rice will play again, even if it’s next year and on a team that doesn’t care about bad publicity. That would make the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins the two most likely options for Rice, the latter of which got bad PR just for tweeting out a Happy Thanksgiving message yesterday. If that’s all it takes for the social-justice warriors to come unglued, having Rice in the backfield won’t make matters any worse than they already are.
Make no mistake: if a team signs Rice, then every time the anti-domestic violence ad runs during an NFL game, people will scream about the hypocrisy the team that signs him is demonstrating. And the critics won’t be entirely wrong, either.
Mike Barnicle offers a note of pessimism:
Roger and the NFL will now have to face the severe consequences of their incompetence or indifference toward the crime of domestic abuse: A few days of embarrassing publicity.
That’s it. That’s all that’s going to happen. Nothing more.
How come? Because the National Football League is a cultural and economic powerhouse. It dominates Sunday in America. And Monday night. And Thursday night too. It is a cash cow, handed billions by TV networks and rewarding its sponsors with huge ratings and ever growing revenues. It has enough clout to force presidents to change their schedule to speak to the nation about minor topics like the economy or war and enough arrogance to ignore for years the physical damage the game has done to its former players.
Update from a reader, who points to a new piece from “Janay Rice, in her own words.”