NFL must make its personal conduct policy clear or players may not get punishment they deserve

Earlier this year, while at a casino in Atlantic City Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punched his then-fiancee in the face. The football player knocked her out cold, and should be punished for it. While the legal system placed him into a pretrial intervention that allowed for no punishment whatsoever, the NFL deemed that the appropriate punishment was a two game suspension.  That is until the league changed its minds

After the tape of Rice’s punch became public, and the public become outraged, the NFL decided to suspend him from the game indefinitely.  And now, according to website ProFootball Talk Rice is planning to appeal the NFL’s decision.


It seems he has some strong arguments for being allowed back on the field. Here’s why.

Rice was suspended under the NFL's “Personal Conduct” policy. Under this policy, the league may suspend a player "for failing to avoid conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the NFL." Clearly, Rice is guilty of such conduct. However, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the facts of this case, Rice's lawyer can build a strong basis for an appeal.

Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining agreement says that a player cannot be punished twice for the same conduct. If Rice was punished for the punch with a two game suspension, how can he now be given an indefinite suspension for the same act? The league will have a hard time overcoming this argument.

In addition, there are reports that the indefinite suspension is not for the punch Rice gave his wife but for lying to the NFL about what happened in that elevator. However, the Ravens GM denies that Rice lied to them about what happened.

If nothing else, this appeal and the hearing that will ensue will make what was known in the investigation much more clear. Until this process is over, though, don't expect to see Rice on the football field.

Historically, suspended players have not been able to play during the time of their appeal.  For example, New Orleans Saint Jonathan Vilma did not play while he appealed his 2012 suspension for "Bountygate." He, too, was suspended for violating the personal conduct policy

The league’s policy has been inconsistent for years.

In 2011, Terrelle Pryor, who was playing for the Oakland Raiders, was suspended for five games for his role in an autograph scandal – a scandal that happened while he was still a player at Ohio State.

Greg Hardy, a North Carolina Panther who was been convicted of domestic violence this year in July, has not been suspended pending his appeal.

Ray McDonald, a Washington Redskin, was also accused of domestic violence earlier this month but has not been suspended from play.

We have yet to see what the NFL plans to do regarding the child abuse accusations that were made just last week on Sept 12, 2014 against Adrian Peterson. And the new accusations, denied by his lawyer which were revealed this week.

The NFL needs to make its personal conduct policy clear and unambiguous. And they need to do it quickly. Until they do, players who punch their partners or hit their children may not face the punishment they deserve.