clock menu more-arrow no yes

Ray Rice's NFL suspension and appeal: what you need to know

Ray Rice runs off the field after a 38-35 win against the Denver Broncos on January 12, 2013.
Ray Rice runs off the field after a 38-35 win against the Denver Broncos on January 12, 2013.
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Former NFL running back Ray Rice will appeal his indefinite suspension from the Baltimore Ravens, NFL Media reported this week. Rice has also filed a grievance against the Ravens for terminating his contract, ESPN reports. If his appeal is granted, Rice could receive $3.52 million from the Ravens.

Last month, Rice was released from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL, after TMZ released video evidence from inside an Atlantic City elevator showing Rice punching his then-fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer, in the face.

The footage was the latest development in a situation that has caused substantial controversy for the NFL since February 2014, when TMZ offered different footage showing Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator in the Revel Casino.

What was the NFL's original response?

Rice's suspension comes after a previous NFL decision that suspended Rice from only the first two games of the season.

The NFL and League commissioner Roger Goodell came under a great deal of criticism for what many saw as a too lenient suspension — after all, testing positive for marijuana results in much harsher penalties.

The Onion might have had the most damning critique of Goodell.

As a result, in August, Goodell announced stricter punishments for players committing domestic violence going forward. In an letter sent to NFL owners in August, Goodell apologized for how he handled Rice's assault allegations, saying he "didn't get it right." Going forward, a first-time offense of assault, battery, domestic violence, or sexual assault will result in an unpaid six-game suspension. A second offense will mean banishment from the league.

How did the Ravens originally respond?

The team stood by its star running back, as did Coach John Harbaugh, who went on record speaking highly of both Rice and Palmer. Although, he said, "there are a lot of question marks" remaining about what transpired between the two, it was important to take into account "Ray's character."

In May, both Rice and Palmer, who were now married, appeared together during a press conference to address what had happened in Atlantic City. The result, writes Mother Jones, "was a complete PR disaster." Rice, who was reading notes from his cell phone, began the interview by apologizing to Steve Biscotti (majority owner of the Ravens), Ozzie Newsome (general manager of the team), and coach John Harbaugh. He also apologized to "the fans" and "the kids" and "everyone who was affected, you know, by this situation that, um, me and my wife were in."

People he did not apologize to included his wife. He did, however, thank her for loving him "when [he] was weak." Rice also offered a tone deaf definition of failure: failure, he said, is "not getting knocked down; it's not getting up."

Palmer also offered a statement. At one point, she said she deeply regretted the role she played in the Atlantic City incident. The conference was being live tweeted by the Ravens' official Twitter account, and a staffer tweeted Palmer's apologetic remarks. The Ravens came under harsh criticism for this move, and the tweet was deleted after Rice's contract was terminated. Here is a screenshot of the original tweet.

Ravens tweet

Rice's first major public appearance following the press conference was an open training camp practice on July 28. Ravens PR wrote that Rice's return to M&T Bank Stadium was greeted with a standing ovation by his loyal fans.

At Grantland, Brian Phillips wrote a terrific essay discussing why domestic violence is so hard for the NFL to discuss.

What caused this? It has to do, I think, with the NFL's curious, quasi-self-appointed role as the safe zone of troubled American masculinity - or, more broadly, as a kind of wildlife refuge for endangered privilege. ...

The league offers, in other words, a particular vision of manhood, at a moment when what manhood means is a vexed question in American culture. The NFL's version of manhood can be something noble, like the playing through pain that moved my father so much. But I think that for many football fans, the main feature of the NFL's image of masculinity is - troublingly - that it is so unchecked. It is not constrained by ambiguity or by the limitations that men have, relatively recently, had to learn to accept in their everyday lives. You roar in the NFL, you rage, you hit as hard as you can. This is an atavistic image, one of power based on violence, and it's swollen here to ludicrous proportions.

How are NFL players responding?

Several former and current NFL players have added their voices to this conversation. Newsday has compiled a great list, but here are a few of them.

Many have praised the news of Rice's termination, but some are calling into question the Ravens' motivation for the termination, including Chris Kluwe, former punter for the Minnesota Vikings.

Why didn't the Ravens originally fire Rice?

Good question. The official word from the team is that no one in the NFL actually saw the video footage of Rice knocking out his wife until TMZ made it public yesterday. This strikes many as suspect. Did the NFL simply fail to even request to see the video?

On the evening of Rice's termination, Harbaugh held a press conference to address the team's decision to let Rice go. Harbaugh insisted the video originally "wasn't made available" to the team, and that when they finally saw it, the decision to fire Rice was made without much deliberation.

Sports Grid's Joe Polito called Harbaugh's remarks "troubling," and claimed that Harbaugh's "calculated" words suggested the Ravens didn't really try to obtain the video.

Shortly after TMZ released the footage showing Rice knocking Palmer unconscious, TMZ founder Harvey Levin announced that he will release evidence later today demonstrating that the NFL, contrary to Harbaugh's claims, actually knew about the video.

Deadspin's Drew Magary isn't buying it either.

As of right now, the NFL is doing everything in its power to make you believe that it would never be so insensitive, but it's failing miserably. No lifetime suspension or display of league righteousness will make up for the glaring lack of anger over the past few months. There was no good reason not to watch that tape. They saw it, and they thought little of it, and now they're praying you don't notice.

Now it looks like Magary might be right. On September 10, the Associated Press reported that a law enforcement official in fact sent a copy of the video footage to the NFL back in April.

But according to SportsCenter, the NFL is claiming they have "no knowledge" of this video.

Was Rice arrested?

Both Rice and Palmer were arrested and charged by Atlantic City police officers after the incident. Rice was charged with simple assault — domestic violence, while Palmer was charged with simple assault. However, on March 27, Rice's charges were upped by a grand jury from simple assault to aggravated assault.

The simple assault charges Palmer faced were dropped.

Did Rice go to jail?

No. He pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and applied for a counseling program for first-time offenders, as SB Nation reports. Acceptance into the program means that Rice could actually avoid going to trial for his charges.

What's next?

As many are reporting, it is unlikely that Rice will play in the NFL again.

On September 9, Palmer broke her silence for the first time since her and Rice's press conference in May by posting a message on Instagram. Here is a copy of the message, obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

Janay's instagram

Ray has yet to comment on his suspension.

For a complete timeline of events, go to SB Nation.

Update: On September 9, CNN's Rachel Nichols reported that she received a text message from Rice, who said he was "holding strong for [his] wife and kid."

Update: The piece has been updated to reflect the AP's announcement that the NFL did receive a copy of the elevator footage back in April.

Update: The piece has been updated to reflect the news that Rice is appealing his indefinite suspension and filing a grievance against the Ravens.


Correction: This article originally referred to Janay Palmer as Janay Parker. It has been updated with her correct maiden name.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.