NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The NFL Players’ Union Tuesday night filed an official appeal of Rice’s indefinite suspension.
Rice, who was originally banned two games, found himself suspended indefinitely by the NFL after video surfaced last week of him punching his now-wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator back in Feburary.
Earlier Tuesday, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told CBS News that the union is required by obligation to defend Ray Rice as he challenges his suspension.
The NFL upped its penalties for domestic violence offenders after outcry over Rice’s initial suspension, made after a first video showed him dragging Janay Palmer Rice out of an elevator at the shuttered Revel Casino. First-timers would face a six-game suspension under the new rules.
Speaking with CBS News’ and CBS Sports “NFL Today” host James Brown, Smith said the NFLPA must defend all of its members, regardless of accusations.
“The union has an obligation to defend the rights of its members, and we not only take that obligation seriously, but when we look at facts and reach a determination that there are appropriate grounds to appeal any decision – any disciplinary decision – that is the role of the union. That is the duty of the union,” Smith said. “And we really don’t shy away from that role at all.”
Smith said the rule applies “public outrage notwithstanding.”
Brown also pointed out that some have called the past 10 days the worst period in NFL history. Smith agreed that the week has been disastrous for the league.
“I want our players to be good men, good husbands, good fathers, good men in their community,” Smith said. “If there is an instance where that conduct has fallen below that standard, that’s not a good week for our players, let alone the national Football League.”
Smith was also asked whether the NFL has a domestic violence problem.
“When I was a prosecutor, domestic violence was a community issue. It still is a community issue,” he replied.
The NFL came down much harder on Rice after it said the second video showed “a starkly different sequence of events” in the elevator than the running back admitted to in his meetings with the league. But Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Rice’s description to the team was consistent with what they saw in the clip that prompted his release.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is under fire for his handling of the video, which he said he viewed for the first time on Sept. 8 despite a bombshell AP report that placed it in the NFL offices months ago. The NFL announced last week that former FBI director Robert Mueller would lead an independent investigation into the Rice case, and the findings will be made public.
Ray and Janay Rice released statements in support of each other last week. The couple showed up at a high school football game together Saturday in Ray Rice’s hometown of New Rochelle.
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