In this article, Joseph M. Hanna, Chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Sports and Entertainment Law Practice Group, examines the ongoing legal struggle between Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, and National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell. Rice was suspended indefinitely in September following disclosure of a domestic violence incident.
“At the forefront of Rice’s challenge is Article 46 of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. Article 46, section 4, known as the ‘one penalty’ rule, bars the commissioner and a team from both disciplining a player for engaging in the same act or conduct. … Rice can indeed argue that he was punished twice for the same conduct. … However, the NFL will likely argue that the two videos portray two very different acts of violence, justifying two separate punishments.”
Joe goes on to explain that if Rice is unsuccessful in his challenge based on the one-penalty rule, he might still succeed on another defense. He could argue that the NFL had knowledge of the elevator video but declined to incorporate it into the original two-game suspension, essentially waiving its right to use the elevator video for new punishment. Ultimately, Joe suggests that success is unlikely as the courts have been extremely deferential to the NFL as a decision maker.