Arbiter rules Roger Goodell should testify in Ray Rice’s appeal of indefinite suspension

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may have to testify during Ray Rice's appeal.Mario Tama/Getty Images NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may have to testify during Ray Rice’s appeal.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can’t hide behind his trusty shield when he appears at former Ravens tailback Ray Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension next month.

Goodell will have to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, when he is forced to detail under oath what he knew, and when he knew it, before he suspended Rice indefinitely in September due to Rice’s violation of the league’s personal conduct policy when Rice punched his wife, Janay Palmer, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

It is an unusual position for a professional sports commissioner to testify under oath. MLB’s Bud Selig did not have to testify in the Alex Rodriguez suspension case last year, but Rice is challenging the suspension given to him by Goodell and the league. The appeal is scheduled for Nov. 5-6.

Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who will serve as the neutral arbitrator in the case, informed the parties of her decision Wednesday. She was agreed upon by the commissioner and the NFL Players Association.

Rice, 27, was originally suspended for two games, but Goodell extended the ban to an indefinite number of games when video of Rice punching Palmer, who was then his fiancée, in an Atlantic City casino elevator on Feb. 15, went public. In a New Jersey court, Rice pleaded not guilty to felony aggravated assault. He was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.

During a news conference last month, Goodell said information Rice gave him in a June meeting that also included Janay was “inconsistent” with what he eventually saw on security video, although Goodell did not elaborate.

It is believed that someone in the room when Goodell met with Rice and his wife memorialized the discussion, according to a source.

As the Daily News previously reported, in front of Goodell and a group of NFL and Ravens officials on June 16 in the NFL’s midtown offices, the running back replayed the scene in the elevator, including the sequence of events that left Palmer unconscious on the floor. Because Rice believed Goodell had already seen the video TMZ eventually released, the source said, Rice was grimly specific in his retelling — a fact that further undermines Goodell’s claims of ignorance.

“Ray owned it from day one,” said one source of Rice’s descriptions of events. “He went in as if (the tape) existed. Everyone knew it existed. He knew if the commissioner hadn’t already seen it, he would see it.”

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter and I’m sorry for that,” Goodell said in the press conference. “I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the decision that I reached. But now I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that.”

In that September press conference, Goodell, who drew intense scrutiny for his handling of a growing domestic violence problem involving players, said, “We strongly, strongly condemn and will punish behavior that is totally unacceptable.”

Union officials said previously that Goodell and his staff’s testimony is a central reason it pushed to jointly select an outside arbiter. Goodell’s testimony will likely be of interest to former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is heading an investigation into the league’s handling of the Rice case.

If Rice’s suspension is overturned and another NFL team signs him, he could return to play games again this season. He has reportedly filed a grievance against the Ravens for releasing him, as well.

Rice, a New Rochelle native and former Rutgers player, had no prior criminal history, no history of domestic violence and a long-established career that included public service. In May, he accepted blame for his part in the assault.

“I failed miserably, but I wouldn’t call myself a failure because I’m working my way back up,” he said.

Rice, who played with the Ravens for six seasons and won a Super Bowl in 2013, had three years remaining on his contract at $4 million this season, $3 million next season and $3 million in 2016. The Ravens cut him on Sept. 8 when the video became public. Baltimore will not owe Rice any money.

Rice is the team’s career leader in total scrimmage yards. 

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