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NFL agrees to first ever neutral arbitration in case of Ray Rice

A form of alternative dispute resolution, arbitration is a widely used means of handing disputes outside the adversarial setting of the court system. Arbitration is used for a variety of types of legal disputes as a way to avoid the expenses and other burdens of litigation.

The National Football League will reportedly be going through arbitration in connection with a dispute involving Ray Rice, who was arrested for a domestic violence incident back in February. Rice, as some readers may know, was indicted on charges of third-degree aggravated assault, but those charges were later dropped. Video footage of the incident, however, led to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Rice indefinitely after a shorter initial suspension. Rice has appealed that decision. 

Under the NFL personal conduct policy, Goodell is supposed to be the one to handle appeals, but the issue in this case is his decision to change the suspension from two games to indefinite suspension after seeing video footage of the incident. The request to take the appeal out of the control of Goodell was made by the NFL Players Association.

Although the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and players states that a hearing date has to be set within 10 days of the filing of an appeal, the deadline is being waived in this case in order to accommodate an investigation into whether law enforcement acted correctly in how they handled the case, particularly with respect to video footage of the incident.

What is unique about this arbitration is that the individual who acts as arbitrator will be neutral rather than appointed by Goodell. This is important, as bias in arbitration can render any decision unconscionable and potentially render it unenforceable. In the future, we’ll be looking more closely at this issue, so stay tuned.

Source: USA Today, “NFL agrees to neutral arbitration in Ray Rice appeal,” Tom Pelissero, September 29, 2014. 

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