Ray Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension got a boost on Thursday as Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome testified that on June 16 he heard Rice tell NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that Rice had struck his then-fiancée, Janay.
Newsome’s statement flies in the face of Goodell’s testimony that Rice had only offered an ambiguous account of the incident rather than a direct admission of his act at the June 16 disciplinary hearing.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that two sources informed them of Newsome’s testimony, which could affect the decision of U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones. Jones will decide whether to accept Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension. Rice and his wife, Janay, testified Thursday, as did Goodell. Outside union attorney Jeffrey Kessler cross-examined the NFL commissioner. Rice’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said, “I can trust it’s a fair process.”
Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games, but he extended that suspension indefinitely on September 8 after a video surfaced showing the running back battering his then girlfriend and knocking her unconscious at an Atlantic City casino.
Rice and the NFL Players Association assert that the indefinite suspension works as an enhanced punishment and violates labor law. The NFLPA maintains that Goodell’s punishment of Rice clashes with the league’s conduct policy. Rice seeks immediate reinstatement.
There are disparate views of what transpired during the June 16 meeting. The union’s notes assert that Rice told Goodell he had hit Janay; the league’s notes differ, saying that Rice was ambiguous in his description.
The NFLPA released a statement following Thursday’s hearing, stating:
The NFLPA thanks Judge Barbara Jones for presiding over a fair and thorough hearing. This is the first time in the history of our League that a disciplinary hearing has been conducted pursuant to a joint agreement on a neutral arbitrator. We commend NFL owners and officials for the wisdom of this decision which enhances the credibility and integrity of our business. The collectively bargained rights of all players must be vehemently preserved and we take that obligation seriously.
Sources told ESPN that Jones has asked for final briefs from both sides by next week.