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Ray Rice Wins Appeal


The story of football player Ray Rice has taken yet another twist. After a video of Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator was made public in September, the NFL indefinitely suspended the star running back. Rice appealed that decision. And today, a former federal judge sided with rice. She vacated his suspension and Rice can now sign to play with any team. For more on this, we are joined by Jane McManus of espn.com. Welcome to the program.

JANE MCMANUS: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: Jane, this decision comes from former judge Barbara Jones. Tell us what she said about why she sided with Rice in this arbitration.

MCMANUS: Well, the NFL had said that it issued a second and indefinite suspension to Rice because new information that came out with this second video was released. You may remember the second video was very graphic - September 8 - it showed Rice punching Janay Palmer, then his fiancee, in the face, knocking her out. And the NFL said that it didn't have all of the information that was in that video when issuing the second suspension. And Ray Rice said that he had been forthcoming.

And so what Judge Jones decided was that Ray Rice had indeed been forthcoming, and that if the NFL didn't have a full understanding of the violence that was inherent in that video, it was because it didn't understand the issue of domestic violence, not because Ray Rice hadn't given all of the information that it needed to have in issuing its suspension.

SHAPIRO: And so one passage from this ruling says, I do not doubt that viewing the video in September evoked horror in Commissioner Goodell as it did with the public. But this does not change the fact that Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL at the June 16 meeting. So Rice is now free to sign with an NFL team. But with all of the bad publicity he's gotten, will any team actually sign him?

MCMANUS: The NFL is filled with players who've had terrible run-ins with the law or done things that they regret and then go on to play again. You know, maybe their fan bases are smaller but, you know, today, you know, I'm sitting right now in the Jet's practice facility and their backup quarterback is Michael Vick. And Michael Vick, you know, was convicted on charges related to dog fighting.

Many people will never be able to cheer for him, but he plays in the NFL. I don't know that, necessarily, Ray Rice will be able to play again right away. But I don't doubt that, you know, with time, there'd be a team that would take him if he still has the skills to play.

SHAPIRO: Ray Rice did put out a statement today saying in part - I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue. So good day for him - a bad day for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has taken a lot of flak for his handling of this issue. He has now effectively lost this case. Do you think he can survive in his job after this?

MCMANUS: Well, I think time will tell. I mean, what moves the needle when it comes to the NFL owners, who ultimately keep Roger Goodell employed, is whether or not sponsors, you know, are going to be involved with the NFL going forward. I think sponsorship pressure was part of the reason that the NFL made a lot of these changes to begin with.

SHAPIRO: That's Jane McManus of espn.com com. Thanks very much.

MCMANUS: No problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.