Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is back in the news again. In front of a former federal judge (neutral arbitrator), Rice was appealing his "indefinite" suspension from the NFL.
Basically, he wants to be reinstated immediately, while Commsh Roger Goodell and company apparently disagree. And this poses some interesting scenarios.
As we all know, Rice cold-cocked his then fiance, a month later wife in an elevator in Atlantic City. But the case had supposedly been settled long before that video came to light, courtesy of TMZ.
Originally, Rice had met with the league offices and received a two game suspension. Further, the prosecutors had the tape all along, but they struck a deal with Rice and his attornies. There would be no criminal prosecution. But then the plot thickened. When the elevator video went viral, the public was outraged, in no small part as to how the media zeroed in on one act in a sequence of events.
The NFL claimed it had never seen that video before, and when they finally did, they suspended Rice indefinitely, as mentioned above. Further, while Rice still maintains he told the league offices exactly what happened on that fateful day in their initial meeting, the NFL is now saying he was "ambiguous". Who to believe?
If the NFL was initially interested in finding out all the facts -- it's hard to believe their army of lawyers wouldn't have uncovered the elevator tape. The casino had it, the cops obviously had it, the prosecutors had it, and a run of the mill investigative reporter likely could have obtained a copy. But Goodell and his minions still maintain they asked for all "pertinent" information and/or evidence, didn't get it, and only saw it upon the release by TMZ. BTW, TMZ stands for "Thirty Mile Zone", which pretty much encompasses all the movie and celebrity action in and around Hollywood.
So according to the NFL, based in NYC, they remained out of the loop for months on an action involving one of their own players, which happened just across the border in Jersey, while some glitz tracking outfit way out in California was privy? Hmmm.
Let's not forget, Rice's current appeal has nothing to do with criminal culpability. Right or wrong, the prosecutors originally cut their deal, made their bed, and now they have to sleep in it. Double jeopardy laws prevent them from having another bite at the apple.
This is about whether Goodell and company had the right to revisit their original punishment on Rice and hand down a second, more severe penalty in light of the "new" evidence. Rice, his lawyers, and the Players Union will no doubt argue he is being punished twice for the same crime, mostly due to the public outrage the eventually leaked elevator video caused. Rice says he told the NFL about it in the first place.
On the other hand, there is the public outrage itself, and the NFL has become acutely sensitive as to how they are perceived. They want to make the politically correct masses happy, or at least less pissed, when things like this happen. They will continue to maintain they couldn't get the evidence they needed in the first place, so were later justified in mandating a harsher penalty when they finally became aware. Good luck with that one, Ms. Arbitrator. May the force be with you.
But here's the thing. Even if Rice wins his appeal, and is technically reinstated immediately by the NFL -- then what?
The Ravens cut him so he's a player without a team. Once a Pro-Bowl running back, and though still only 27, Rice's stats have steadily gone down in the last couple years. With their current corps of running backs, the Ravens rushing game is far ahead of where it was last year -- WITH Rice.
And even if reinstated, what team would take him? To do so would certainly provoke some serious discontent amongst a certain faction of a team's fans. The NFL, and most every team within it, have been steadily growing their female fan base. Turns out, girls are starting to get into football too. And OMG, they've got money to spend on such things. Imagine that. Just kidding, ladies. LOL
Given the politically correct times we now live in, various other incidents amongst athletes, and the constant barrage of those advocating "heightened awareness", bringing Rice on board, even for a bargain price, would be a PR nightmare for any club to explain to their fan base.
Personally, I wish Ray and his wife Janay the best. May their marriage be glorious and may they someday celebrate their golden anniversary. Live long, prosper, and multiply -- to a point. Rice is a good thing, but nobody wants to see it every day. Jerry, Uncle Ben, and that A-Roni bunch on the supermarket shelves get wearisome after a while -- not to mention Condoleezza.
But Ray Rice currently finds himself in the no-man's land of Pete Rose, A-Rod, and Lance Armstrong, though for differing reasons.
Whether or not he'll ever be given another shot remains to be seen.
Count me skeptical.