Unless you’ve successfully avoided all types of news and gossip lately, you’ve heard about Ray Rice’s recent scandal. What’s more, you’ve probably seen the tragic video in which he punched his then-fiancé, knocking her out, and then dragged her out of an elevator. For Ray Rice – and the NFL – the release of the video footage changed everything. Seeing what he did somehow makes it more despicable, if that’s possible. Seeing it as a video outrages us and incites us to question the NFL. And seeing that video gives us something palpable to arm ourselves with when deciding how we feel about the situation.
No doubt about it, Ray Rice should not be given the opportunity to play professional football again. But, legally, it’s not so clear.
The first thing to understand is that NFL’s collective bargaining agreement does not have a so-called “double jeopardy” provision. What is does have is Article 46, Section 4, which states that a player cannot be disciplined twice “for the same act or conduct.” The importance of this provision really hinges on when the powers that be at the NFL had and knew about the video showing the assault.
There are allegations that the surveillance video of Rice’s assault was sent to league security chief Jeffry Miller in April. There is also talk that there is a voicemail from league offices confirming receipt of said video on April 9.
If this is true, then when Ray Rice was punished with a two-game suspension, that should have been the end of it. If NFL officials had already seen the video, then they knew all there was to know and had somehow decided that a two-game suspension was enough of a punishment. Under this version, you’d have to assume that once the video was leaked to the masses, the NFL reacted with an indefinite suspension to nullify the outrage. The problem here is that the two-game suspension was punishment number one. And because of Article 46, Section 4, Rice can’t be punished again for the same act or conduct.
On the other hand, you have Miller saying, “I unequivocally deny that I received at any time a copy of the video and I had not watched it until it was made public on September 8.” And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly said several times that no one in his office viewed the video until TMZ posted it on its website in September. If this is the truth, then the video brought new information to the table, and so it might be appropriate to revise the two-game suspension.
Eventually, the truth will come out. We will know one way or another exactly when Goodell and company knew of the video. And this truth will likely have a huge impact on Rice’s future as a player.
Which version of the story do you believe? Do you think people within the NFL saw the video before giving Rice his first punishment?
Hear my thoughts in the latest Legal Lis podcast: foxrad.io/1pjtSAK