Time is Ticking for the Ray Rice Suspension
According to sources, Ray Rice will file an appeal today to the indefinite suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave him in response to the publicized domestic violence elevator video footage. The NFLPA received the NFL's letter stating the basis for the suspension at the end , and since the NFLPA has three business days after receipt to file the appeal paperwork, we will know for certain whether Rice will take action by 11:59PM Tuesday. As I mentioned last week, the NFL's letter is the first step in the process, and the next step would be actually filing the appeal in response.
For those who are unaware of the appeals process in professional football and want to follow along with the case as it develops, I will give a brief rundown of the NFLPA's role and the structure of the relevant formal processes. The NFLPA's role as the NFL's professional football players' union dates back to its establishment in 1956. As a union, it does "whatever necessary to assure that the rights of players are protected - including ceasing to be a union, if necessary" and expresses its role in the NFL Players Association Constitution. The NFLPA collectively bargains with the NFL to establish the terms and conditions of the players' employment, such as wages and hours, for the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to protect their rights as employees under labor law, negotiates insurance and retirement benefits, and defends its members' images as well as the profession of football whether it be on or off the field.
Through the CBA, NFL players agree to adhere to the NFL Bylaws and policies. For Ray Rice's case, the NFL Personal Conduct Policy is the pertinent policy. There, everyone associated with the NFL agrees to refrain from "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League." This includes players and coaches as well as NFL executives and the commissioner. Those subject to this policy are held to a standard higher than conduct that is merely lawful, and failure to do so is subject to discipline. Under the policy, anyone disciplined has a right to appeal and the right to a "prompt hearing" under Article 46 of the CBA and under the NFL Constitution and Bylaws. The hearing is conducted by either the commissioner or another designated party. Here, because there are allegations against Goodell and an investigation into his own conduct since he is also held to the "conduct detrimental" standard, a neutral arbitrator would likely be selected. This may raise questions about what "neutral" means, but generally it is someone agreed upon by both parties. Here, the NFLPA would permissibly represent Rice in the appeal because he is a member of the union. The appeal would take some time, and if Rice were to fail, he could seek reinstatement next year. A player suspended indefinitely may seek reinstatement as soon as one month before the one-year mark from the suspension.