Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has won his appeal of an indefinite suspension and has been reinstated to the NFL.
Rice is now eligible to sign with any NFL team.
“I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans — but most importantly, my wife Janay,” Rice said in a statement released by the NFLPA on Friday. “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. I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes.”
Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who heard Rice’s appeal earlier this month, concluded in her decision, which was obtained by ESPN, that Rice did not lie to or mislead NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated,” Jones’ decision stated.
“I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary,” Jones also wrote.
“The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline.
“Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”
An NFL spokesman, when asked by ESPN’s Andrew Brandt if the league would pursue any further action against Rice, said: “We, of course, accept the ruling as binding.”
Rice’s wife, Janay, told ESPN’s Jemele Hill on Friday that they learned of the ruling while at the house of Janay Rice’s mother, and were with family and friends at the time.
“It feels unbelievable,” Janay Rice said. “It’s a relief. We’ve been telling the same story for months and we always had faith that we’d done the right thing. Everyone deserves a second chance. We’re excited about what the future will bring.”
Whether Rice is entitled to back pay for game checks he missed during his suspension will be determined in a separate proceeding through the grievance filed against the Ravens by the NFLPA on behalf of Rice.
“This decision is a victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent,” the NFLPA said Friday in a statement. “This union will always stand up and fight for the due process rights of our players. We take no pleasure in seeing a decision that confirms what we have been saying about the Commissioner’s office acting arbitrarily. The only remaining action is for NFL owners to embrace a fair process with a neutral arbitrator in all cases. The players thank Judge Barbara Jones for her time and thoroughness in this matter.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after a video of him hitting his then-fiancée was released publicly.
Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games. The incident occurred in February inside an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome testified under oath Nov. 6 in the appeal hearing that he heard the former Baltimore running back tell Goodell during his June 16 disciplinary hearing that he had hit his then-fiancée in a casino hotel elevator, sources told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
Rice also testified, as did his wife. Details of what Rice and his wife testified to Nov. 6 and what Goodell said Nov. 5 were not released to “Outside the Lines” because of a gag order that Jones imposed. But sources said Newsome backed Rice’s previous accounts of what he told Goodell.
Goodell spent the majority of his time testifying under cross-examination by outside union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, sources said.
Rice, 27, is a three-time Pro Bowler and helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII. He rushed for 6,180 yards and 37 touchdowns in six seasons with Baltimore.
Ravens receiver Torrey Smith tweeted his support of his former teammate after Rice’s reinstatement was announced.
ESPN Contributed To This Report