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Ray Rice, Sucker Punches, And The NFL’s Three-Headed Coin 

The last time Ray Rice was front and center in the media cycle, he was a disgraced NFL superstar who was caught on camera two-piecing his wife in an elevator.

The last time Ray Rice was front and center in the media cycle, he was a disgraced NFL superstar who was caught on camera two-piecing his wife in an elevator.

No one knew what happened before they entered that elevator or what “provoked” the situation as ESPN’s First Take host Stephen A. Smith noted when he suggested that women should examine their role in provoking domestic violence incidents.

Anybody riding with Rice, including Smith who was given a de-facto suspension and had to offer an on-air apology, was taken to task by a community of  women and men in media who are passionate in their stance against domestic violence 

His career looked dead in the water, but just as due process allowed the murderer of Michael Brown to walk free despite video evidence of officer Darren Wilson’s vicious intentions, the NFL appeals process worked for Rice as the 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ has been vindicated as well.


No sane person who would defend the ill-advised, impulsive actions of Ray Rice. And please don't misconstrue anything in this article as TSL supporting  Rice's egregious conduct. But now that the two-minutes of fury are over and the “facts” of the case have been heard by Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones—whose reputation is beyond reproach—Rice has won his appeal of an indefinite suspension and has been reinstated to the NFL. Rice is now eligible to sign with any NFL team.


"I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans — but most importantly, my wife Janay," Rice said in a statement released by the NFLPA on Friday. "I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions.

In the end, Jones had no choice but to rule for Rice's reinstatement.

"I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue," he continued. " I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes."


Honestly, most people didn’t care to know what preceded the violence. The striking image of Rice aggressively knocking Janay Rice unconscious was captured by TMZ and spread across the world to see. It was as damning as it could get for Rice and became a reaffirming symbol of the widespread domestic violence that plagues many American households. The moment it went viral the situation became less about Rice and his family and more about the emotional and opportunistic property of the social media world and the backlash that comes with it.

Despite the fact that his wife forgave him and asked that they be able to work this situation out in private, Rice’s sins were already fodder for social media maniacs and any entity looking to bring attention to its cause through “the Ray Rice Incident.”


The Baltimore Ravens immediately turned their back on him and released him. Most doubted if he’d ever play in the NFL again. Then adding insult to injury, Commissioner Goodell crumbled to outside pressures and suspended Rice indefinitely on Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after the video hit the streets.

Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games for the February incident after speaking with all parties involved. When public opinion licked shots at Goodell’s “lack of discipline,” the commish tried to clean it up by villainizing Rice and smacking him with a double whammy. 

Everybody knew something wasn’t right, but the emotion of the moment caused the staunchest defenders of due process to give Goodell props for increasing the punishment.

However, the evil nugget in the process was that Goodell had to give the impression that Rice withheld pertinent information about the incident to justify his actions.

Judge Jones, who heard Rice's appeal earlier this month, concluded in her decision, which was obtained by ESPN, that Rice did not lie to or mislead NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.



"In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated," Jones' decision stated.


"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 also wrote.

"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."

In a strange twist of irony—an irony created by the lies, mismanagement and questionable leadership of Goodell, as we sit here today, Ray Rice has somehow become the victim in this situation. A guy who made a mistake was punished for it, then punished again for it to save somebody else’s bacon.


That didn’t sit well with Judge Jones. Integrity mattered to her as well as Goodell’s inability to identify the true problem in this entire mess.

Janay Rice never had a negative word to say about Ray throughout the entire ordeal. She showed support and even took some responsibility (although no one would blame her for the incident no matter how hard she tried to soften the brunt of her husband's fall from grace)  Her unwavering devotion as a wife seemed to piss off a lot of people who don’t take the “till death do us part” aspect of .to heart. Some women’s right activists and psychologists will say that a battered woman—if that’s what Janay Rice ever was—often stands by her abuser. It’s a common symptom of such relationship dysfunction.

 

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However, Rice refuses to accept the weak woman description that some have unfairly saddled her with. She scoffs at the ignorance of certain women, who fail to understand her maternal instincts and ride-or-die devotion.

In this writer’s view, instead of showing any flaw in strength, Janay has exhibited the qualities of a true wife. She’s protected her husband, kids and family at a time when their foundation was under serious attack.  She’s never justified her husband’s actions, but to suggest that she should walk out on him or abandon her responsibilities to her children and her commitment to marriage is a bit out of line on our part.


On Friday, in an exclusive interview, Janay basically told ESPN’s Jemele “Juice” Hill, a long-time friend of mine and eloquent and passionate defender of people's rights, that she wants the NFL to let her hubby eat now. Money needs to be put on the table. They all have a job to do. She obviously did hers, now let Rice get back to doing his. This is officially a Rice Family problem again.


 

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"It feels unbelievable," Janay told Juice. "It's a relief. We've been telling the same story for months and we always had faith that we'd done the right thing. Everyone deserves a second chance. We're excited about what the future will bring."

Janay was so adamant about her position that she used an exclusive interview with NBC's Matt Lauer to blast Goodell for his handling of the situation. 

 

The NFL issued a statement, but it’s not worth relaying. The League fumbled this situation from the 1-yard line. It was dead wrong. Apparently as wrong as Ray Rice was in that Atlantic City Casino elevator.

Players are no longer well-paid slaves who can be discredited and discarded at the whim of a higher power. That would be the NFL’s version of the PED-Era in baseball and Bud Selig is retiring and with him the many sugar-coated skeletons of his reign.

This is the second time a major Goodell ruling has been overturned. Again, he was told that his pimp hand was a bit too strong and his rep as an enforcer was cheapened. 



The first egg on his face was when Goodell appointed ex-NFL commish Paul Tagliabue to arbitrate a second round of player appeals for the New Orleans Saints “Bountygate” scandal . In a direct slap of Goodell’s stone-faced cheek, Tagliabue tossed all player suspensions.

Now this .


Despite being reinstated, Rice is still an ogre in the court of public opinion and it will be interesting to see if any team has the rocks to sign him. According to SI.com, four NFL teams have expressed interest in Rice and two of the teams are the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. However, neither team is expected to pursue him this season. 

Why not? 

There will be myriad excuses from different talking heads as to why Rice shouldn’t or won’t be reinstated. They will question his mental state and the extent of his rehabilitation. They will challenge his physical conditioning and doubt he’s in good enough shape to help a team win games so late in the season. Other opponents of Rice’s reinstatement will say things like he isn’t worth the distraction or backlash from anti-domestic violence groups.



It’s all a bunch of hogwash by people who want to see their political and personal agendas pushed by hanging Rice out to dry and making sure he never works again and his family continues to suffer even after this ordeal has obviously been put in the Rice Family rear view mirror.

This time, Commissioner Goodell wasn’t going to be able to put his incompetence and poor decision-making on Rice. The courts found that Rice did tell Goodell the truth in that initial meeting and the only potential liar in the situation—the most egregious character in this ordeal—was Goodell.

His calculated and deceptive actions made Rice’s left hook seem like a kiss on the cheek as far as potential for damage is concerned. If the judge couldn’t see past the BS and actually believed that Rice withheld info in his first meeting with Goodell, then that would have all but killed Rice’s hopes of being cleared to play this season. In addition, his career as an NFL player would probably be over as he’s been nothing but a public relations nightmare.

He does however deserve to make a living. Now, the NFL has to let him rock. Trying to blackball Rice from the League after Goodell already did him dirty is just plain wrong and it’s another form of double jeopardy. The same kind that made the victimizer the victim in the first place.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.