The NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) request for Roger Goodell to recuse himself from overseeing Ray Rice’s suspension appeal has been granted. The NFLPA announced yesterday that a neutral arbitrator will oversee the appeal.
The NFL claims that they never intended for Goodell to oversee Rice’s appeal. After all, Goodell is a witness in the case. The NFLPA writes in their announcement that a “neutral and jointly selected arbitrator” will oversee the case and determine if the NFL violated the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement by punishing Ray Rice twice.
Here is the specific CBA clause the NFLPA is invoking:
“Under governing labor law, an employee cannot be punished twice for the same action when all of the relevant facts were available to the employer at the time of the first punishment.”
Rice’s legal team will argue that the NFL acquired no new knowledge of his offense when they upped his two game suspension to an indefinite one. The NFL, on the other hand, will argue that they did learn new information upon seeing the infamous elevator surveillance footage of Rice hitting his wife. The league will also argue that Rice lied to them about the incident during a meeting with league executives.
Regardless of the outcome of Rice’s appeal, expect the NFLPA to keep pressure on the league to revamp their punishment and punishment appeals process. Currently, Goodell both issues and overseas appeals for all league punishments. NFLPA president Eric Winston reiterated this week the union’s desire to see a neutral third party manage the process.
"There's an issue with player conduct,” Winston said in an interview with CNN this week. “And maybe it's time to take that out of the commissioner's hands and put it into a neutral arbitration process where there can be a fair process for everybody involved.”