NFL Issues Memo To Teams Following Rice Ruling

Following Friday’s announcement that Ray Rice‘s indefinite suspension has been overturned, allowing him the freedom to sign with any team, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash issued a memo to the chief executives and presidents of each of the NFL’s 32 teams. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has obtained a copy of that memo, a portion of which reads as follows:

“Earlier today, retired federal judge Barbara Jones issued her decision in the appeal filed by the NFLPA from the indefinite suspension imposed on Ray Rice. Judge Jones vacated the indefinite suspension, finding that Mr. Rice did not mislead the Commissioner in describing his actions toward Janay Palmer, who was his fiancée. The decision turned on whether Mr. Rice told the Commissioner that he “hit” Miss Palmer (rather than that he “slapped” her) and whether he claimed that she “knocked herself out” by striking her head in the elevator. Judge Jones found that when he met with the Commissioner last June, Mr. Rice sufficiently described his conduct and that his description was not misleading when compared to the later release of the videotape from inside the hotel elevator.

​No part of Judge Jones’s decision questions the Commissioner’s honesty or integrity, nor his good faith consideration of the issue when he imposed the indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice. Nor is there any suggestion that the Commissioner had seen the video from inside the elevator before it became public, or knew of the contents of the video.

​Judge Jones’s decision ends the disciplinary proceedings relating to Ray Rice. He remains free to sign with a contract and is eligible to participate without restriction upon signing a contract.

​The decision has no bearing on the current work on a revised Personal Conduct Policy, nor on the initiatives announced by the Commissioner on August 28 regarding domestic violence and sexual assault. Similarly, the decision is limited to Ray Rice and should have no effect on any other pending or prospective disciplinary matters.”

The memo, which goes on for several more paragraphs, appears designed to alleviate any concerns team owners may have about Roger Goodell‘s role in the disciplinary process for personal conduct violations. The statement portrays Goodell as a victim of semantics rather than a commissioner who deliberately and arbitrarily punished Rice twice for the same violation and attempted to justify the ruling after the fact.

While that stance doesn’t come as a surprise, it’s still likely a disappointment for the Players Association. Rather than Rice’s case representing a turning point for personal conduct issues and the relationship between the league and its players, it appears the NFL will simply try to paint it as an isolated incident, an aberration that doesn’t reflect a larger systemic problem with the league’s disciplinary process.

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