Transcript for Football Firestorm: Ray Rice Reinstated
Now to the NFL and the bombshell ruling Friday that former Baltimore ravens running back ray rice can play again. In that ruling a retired judge said rice did not lie to NFL commissioner roger Goodell and that the league was wrong to suspend the former all pro indefinitely after he was caught on tape punching his then fiancee. So what's next for rice and the league? Here's ABC's Ryan smith. Reporter: That shocking video released in September of ray rice punching his then fiancee, Janay, triggered a firestorm. NFL commissioner roger Goodell upping rice's initial suspension for domestic violence from two games to indefinite claiming rice downplayed the assault in a June meeting. It was clear there was an act of domestic violence. But it was inconsistent with the way he described what happened. Reporter: But in her ruling, a retired federal judge calling the NFL's additional suspension of rice arbitrary and an abuse of discretion noting, "I am not persuaded that rice lied to or misled the NFL" even flagging the handling of previous domestic violence cases saying "Rice's mishandled suspension speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely." Goodell knew exactly what happened, and his reaction with the indefinite suspension was based more on public outrage than it was on fact and circumstance. Reporter: When the assault happened back in February, rice agreed to a court-ordered domestic violence program. Later, publicly apologizing to his wife. I made the biggest mistake of my life, me. She can do no wrong. She's an angel. Reporter: Rice saying in a statement after Friday's decision, "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." And his wife Janay telling ESPN's jemele hill, "We have no guarantees about ray's future in football, but I know this experience has made us far more aware of what's important and how fortunate we are." For the NFL, the controversy isn't over. There's another investigation into the league's handling of the evidence in this case. And rice claims he's owed millions lost since being suspended. But for now as rice hopes to get back on the field, the question is, will any NFL team have him? And Ryan smith joins us now along with "Usa today" columnist and ABC news contributor Christine Brennan and ESPN's jemele hill whose new interview with Janay rice was released on Friday. Welcome to you all, and let's quickly get to the question you left us with, Ryan, will he play again? Word this morning I think from ESPN that four teams are looking at him. Right, and I think that's common in cases like this. A couple of teams are looking at him, considering him. It's near playoff time so some teams need the help of a star like ray rice. But I think at this point nobody is speaking out and saying specifically we are looking to sign him, so I think he's got a little ways to go before he gets back into the league. Christine, will he be back? I don't think this year. I think it's too much of a public relations nightmare, really. It's a real roll of the dice, Martha. The Indianapolis colts were one of the teams being mentioned. Immediately they sent out word, we are not interested. I think we'll see that from other teams. Yes mell and welcome, jemele. Thank you for having me. It feels a little bit toxic still. I do expect fully he will play in the NFL again. Ryan, let's go to how the NFL handled this. We have word this morning from the general counsel, no part of judge Jones' decision questions the commissioner's honesty or integrity nor his good faith consideration of the issue when he imposed the indefinite suspension. Is that how you see it? It depends. I think what they're doing is a little bit of a pr campaign for roger Goodell because think about this, it's the owners who have the hiring and firing ability with respect to his job. So what they did was they put out something saying, well, this is what we did and this is what the explanation was, but, hey, he wasn't dishonest. He didn't do anything wrong. I think the proof in the pudding here is they made the distinction between her being hit or being slapped in an elevator but it seems clear to the arbitrator that ray rice had told them everything so to me -- From notes, from notes in that hearing. Exactly, so to me it seems that Goodell wasn't telling the full story. Christine, you say and have been saying all along there's a larger issue here about domestic violence. September 8th will go down as one of the watershed moments in sports and in our culture. The day we saw the video. Everything changed. Look at the Atlantic City prosecutor slap on the wrist. The grand jury saw those videotapes and did almost nothing. So when the NFL was buffeted by this incredible news and seeing the video, all of a sudden a two-game suspension, they, of course -- it was double jeopardy went right to the indefinite suspension but the nation was screaming out for that. Internal politics, understandable and important between the union and the commissioner but then you also have the court of public opinion, which was really driving this story. Jemele, are we asking too much of the NFL to deal with this huge, huge problem? In some ways, yes, I mean, we have to remember the NFL is a talent-driven, production-based business. It's a billion dollar business. Its first and foremost duty is to put on really good football games and entertain us and while certainly they can set their standard as a league and certainly for any corporation there should be a certain moral standard that you want to abide by, but we're asking roger Goodell and the NFL to fix domestic vice as Christine noted. Let's start with where this started, the Atlantic City prosecutor with our laws. They looked at this video and this is what they ultimately decided so if you want to put any pressure, if there's any outrage, it should be on how this originally started because they felt like what the punishment that he received was suitable. So does Goodell stay? I think he does for right now. But I think that comes down to more of a money point. I think -- my thinking is if you lose a major sponsor because of this controversy, his job could be in jeopardy. But right now, he's got an investigation going into things like did he know about this video? And right now it looks like he didn't, but if he's found to have known about that video, he could have real problems in terms of his honesty, but he does well by the owners, and the owners want to keep him in that spot so as long as they want to keep him he stays. How about getting a neutral arbitrator? Is that possible? Well, that's what the union wants, obviously. They hailed this decision. They did but the collective bargain agreement, they gave away that opportunity, they gave that power to roger Goodell so jerry Jones said yesterday or the day before, he said, we don't want to go back and look at the collective bargaining agreement on this. The owners are happy with the way it is. Of course, they are. They're billionaires and they're also happy with roger Goodell and the way he's handled it and I don't think he's going anywhere. Jemele, very quickly, what is your takeaway from your interview with ray rice's wife, Janay? She's a thoughtful, impressive woman and circle the word young. I think lost in all this we forget their ages. She 26. He's 27. They're a young couple and known each other since they were 14 and 15 and so while I know people, we've sort of been taught a narrative about domestic violence and I know some people will read this piece and say, oh, this is just in line with what we think and how we expect somebody to respond, but I thought -- I found her to be extremely genuine with everything that she said. Okay. Thanks very much to all of you. This issue will not be going away for sure.
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