In defense of Ray Rice’s legal rights

We offer the following three-part commentary in response to the Ray Rice witch-hunt:

1. Self-righteous TV news anchors and the news media generally have now milked the unfortunate Ray Rice affair for all it’s worth by airing the infamous elevator surveillance video countless times. (We refuse to link to it.) Hasn’t the media — and by extension all of us who have watched the video out of morbid curiosity — invaded Janay Palmer’s privacy and human dignity, who everyone professes so much hypocritical concern for?

2. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has now suspended Mr Rice from the field “indefinitely” (see Tweet below).  In addition to being retroactive and unfair, doesn’t this unilateral suspension lack any pretense of due process and violate the Commissioner’s own “new” (and knee-jerk) domestic-violence policy (consisting of a six-game suspension for a first offense)?

3. The owner of the Ravens has now unilaterally terminated his team’s contract with Mr Rice for his off-the-field conduct. Isn’t this a flagrant breach of contract for which Ray Rice is entitled monetary damages?

We conclude with some rhetorical questions: Whatever happened to “due process” and “rule of law”? Are those empty terms to be applied selectively? Apparently, the answer to this second question is now “yes” if you are caught doing something bad on video or on audio tape.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Law, Sports and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In defense of Ray Rice’s legal rights

  1. steve says:

    As to 2) Due process and the rule of law only apply between citizens and the govt. The NFL is a private organization.

    As to 3) Ray Rice is getting paid even though he was fired. Every company can fire someone who has a contract, they just have to pay him.

  2. enrique says:

    Thanks for your feedback, and please send us more.

    Here is our feedback to your feedback: First, re: #2, you are correct that “due process” is a public right (i.e. a right that applies only against the government), but at the same time, there is also a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL Players’ Association and the League. So, the non-trivial question here, we would argue, is whether Commissioner Goodell has the contractual authority to change penalties retroactively. (Remember, Goodell unilaterally announced new penalties for domestic violence in late August and has now retroactively imposed a harsher penalty on Ray Rice — an “indefinite” suspension instead of a six-game suspension.)

    With respect to #3, we beg to differ with you. According to this report in nj.com, for example, “Rice was due to earn $4 million in base pay this season, plus another $3 million in both 2015 and 2016, in addition to incentives of up to $1 million annually for all three seasons. But none of that money was guaranteed. So that’s approximately $10 million in base pay plus up to $3 million in incentives Rice now won’t see.” (The link to this report is here: http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/2014/09/ray_rice_video_how_much_money_he_loses_by_having_his_contract_terminated.html.)

  3. steve says:

    Thanks for your response

    As to number 2) it seems that the CBA is badly worded so Ray Rice may have a case. This is a CBA issue not a due process one but your argument is well taken. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2014/09/11/ray-rice-discipline-brings-to-light-poorly-drafted-nfl-collective-bargaining-agreement/

    As to number 3) Ray Rice’s contract allowed for him to be terminated and not paid if he was not on the team’s roster. Ray Rice agreed to a non-guaranteed contract. Since he was serving his original 2 game suspension when cut, he is not contractually entitled to get paid.

    If the Ravens breached the contract they can be sued.

  4. Don says:

    This is an intelligent and well reasoned article. I think that what is happening is that Goodell and the NFL are incapable of standing up to media and the internet pressure. This latest witch hunt is driven b an intolerant group of people, who claim to be liberal, who demand instant justice-regardless of how much it violates due process. Ray’s probably however is not just the NFL. He has been so demonized this may effect his ability to get a fair hearing as he appeals Goodell’s rulings.

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