By Ernie Palladino
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Justice found Ray Rice Monday.

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The hypocrisy of professional sports will eventually save him, for nobody is ever gone for long in the play-for-pay game.

Anyone who believes the NFL’s “indefinite” suspension of the Ravens’ former fiancee-beating running back is the end of Rice’s career just hasn’t been paying attention. Careers in pro sports — any professional sport — are not dictated by off-field crimes short of proven murder. They are dictated by one’s abilities. So, we can safely assume that at age 27, Rice will be back providing his powerful legs remain intact once the league deems his exile finished.

Some owner, some general manager, will always be there to hand over a couple of million dollars to a criminal if he upgrades the roster. Such is the duplicity of professional sports. The entire athletic community was seemingly shocked and stunned by Monday’s elevator video that showed Rice knocking his then-fiancee, now-wife, cold as a halibut with a short left hand. She was down, motionless, for more than a minute, well after he dragged her unconscious form out of the elevator.

That’s a long time to be out.

The Ravens took appropriate action in releasing him. Roger Goodell eventually did the right thing after the Ravens cut him. But even there, hypocrisy overflowed as Goodell tried to make us believe an investigative arm peopled by ex-CIA agents, ex-FBI agents, ex-Secret Service agents, ex-detectives and ex-cops couldn’t beat TMZ to the knockout video. Really? Casinos have more security cameras per square foot than Area 51, and not because they’re worried about an alien invasion. They’re not even worried about their customers’ well-being. They’re after cheats and how they prepare. So rooms are wired, gaming tables watched, hallways monitored and, yes, elevators videoed to make sure nobody is slipping those extra cards and slot machine wands down their pant legs.

Even at that, Goodell’s argument falls apart. A law enforcement source Monday night showed the Associated Press another tape, this one longer and with sound, in which Rice and Janay Palmer exchanged obscenities and Palmer spit at Rice just before the 212-pound player hauled off on her.

The idea that the NFL had no access to either tape before Goodell handed down the original two-game suspension is laughable. But let’s say it didn’t, for argument’s sake. The evidence of the initial hallway tape tells us Palmer’s trip into Wonderland came not from Rice whispering sweet nothings in her ear before the doors opened.

If what Goodell claimed is true, the NFL is guilty at least of gross incompetence, or worse, blatant indifference.

The hypocrisy is always there, though, in every sector. There sat one of Rice’s former teammates, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, spouting off on ESPN about domestic violence. No disclaimer crawler on the fact that Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the murder of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub in 2000. The NFL took him back to continue a legendary career. The Ravens will probably build a statue to him one of these days.

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Michael Vick, convicted dog killer, plays for the Jets. Plaxico Burress came back after accidentally discharging a Glock in a crowded nightclub. The Giants years ago signed alleged Nebraska rapist Christian Peter.

NFL locker rooms are filled with players who have run, robbed, and beaten with gangs during their youths.

PED cheats in baseball come back and get signed for millions. Make no mistake, if the Biogenesis scandal had broken five or six years ago, Alex Rodriguez, not Chase Headley, would be manning third base for the Yanks right now.

In sports, everyone gets forgiven. As long as Rice is deemed useful to someone, he, too, will receive absolution. Someone will sign him and yammer about second chances and rehabilitation and dubious “she-cursed-and-spit” mitigation.

And fans of whichever team he lands on will cheer him, just like the Ravens faithful deified Lewis, just as those in MetLife Stadium lauded Vick in his handful of plays Sunday. We are part of the same problem. Our hands are not clean in all this.

Run Rice out forever? That’s the cry now. But nobody pays the ultimate punishment unless they gamble on their team.

It is part of the hypocrisy of the pros, the same syndrome that will enable the resurrection of Ray Rice.

Eventually.

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