Ray Rice is back…sort of.
U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who heard Rice’s appeal to be reinstated earlier this month, concluded in her decision that Rice did not lie or mislead NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, making him eligible to be signed by any NFL team.
Question, though: Who will sign Rice?
What team has the strength or courage to sign a player who has been the face of domestic violence, even as his wife says their incident in an Atlantic City casino elevator was a first. Video released by TMZ showed Rice landing a punch with his left hand to Janay Rice’s head, knocking her into a guard rail and unconscious.
“In so holding, I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary,” Jones’ decision stated.
“The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline.
“Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”
It’s a victory for Rice and it says Goodell was not honest when he said Rice did not tell him details of what happened that night. Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games, but increased it to an indefinite suspension once outraged ruled when the video was released. He claimed Rice was not forthcoming in the details of him striking his wife.
Baltimore Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome said Rice had been transparent, and the NFL Players Association filed an appeal, claiming that the league could not punish Rice twice for the same offense.
Rice won, and the NFL said it will not appeal the decision.
So, back to the question: Who will sign Rice? Likely no one this season. But he is healthy, experienced, accomplished and has a history as a good guy in his favor. His wife, perhaps not coincidentally, told her story to ESPN.
Among the myriad things she said was:
I still find it hard to accept being called a “victim.” I know there are so many different opinions out there about me—that I’m weak, that I’m making excuses and covering up abuse—and that some people question my motives for staying with Ray.
However, I’m a strong woman and I come from a strong family. Never in my life have I seen abuse, nor have I seen any woman in my family physically abused. I have always been taught to respect myself and to never allow myself to be disrespected, especially by a man. Growing up, my father used to always tell my sister and I, “We don’t need a man to make us, if anything it’s the man who needs us.”
No matter how long we have known each other and no matter what the circumstance is, Ray understands that violent behavior like this, even one time, is never acceptable. Ray told the truth and has fully accepted responsibility for his actions, which allowed us to work together at improving ourselves and get to the better place we are today.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve realized how strong I am. People ask me how I’ve gotten through this and I honestly cannot put it into words. I have grown closer to God. My faith has gotten me through each day. It’s been hard accepting the fact that God chose us for this, but at the same time it’s put us in the position to help others. We know our incident led to very important discussions to hashtags of “why I stayed” and “why I left.” If it took our situation becoming headline news to show domestic violence is happening in this country, that’s a positive.”