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NFL players union files appeal for Ray Rice

In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, Baltimore

In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice sits on the sideline in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Baltimore. Credit: AP / Nick Wass

The NFL Players Association filed an appeal Tuesday night on behalf of former Ravens running back Ray Rice, challenging the indefinite suspension issued Sept. 8 by commissioner Roger Goodell. The union also asked that Goodell recuse himself from hearing the appeal.

"This action taken by our union is to protect the due process rights of all NFL players," the union said in a statement.

The NFLPA has requested that a neutral arbitrator, approved by the league and the union, be appointed to hear the case. Under normal circumstances, Goodell handles such appeals; however, the union believes that Goodell's handling of the case makes him unsuitable to hear the appeal.

Goodell initially suspended Rice in July for two games, a decision that was widely condemned as being too light. Rice had an altercation with his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino on Feb. 15. He was seen in a surveillance video dragging her away from the elevator. However, a video posted Sept. 8 by TMZ showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, causing her head to bounce off a metal bar on the back wall of the elevator. Later that day, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell suspended him indefinitely.

Goodell said he changed his decision after seeing the video Sept. 8. However, two days later, The Associated Press reported that a law enforcement official had sent a copy of that video on April 9 to the league offices in New York, leading to speculation that Goodell may have seen the video at that time. Goodell said he saw the video for the first time on Sept. 8.

The commissioner appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the league's handling of the Rice case, including its handling of relevant information.

The union believes Goodell's role has been compromised and he is therefore not in a good position to make an impartial decision.

"The NFLPA appeal is based on supporting facts that reveal a lack of a fair and impartial process, including the role of the office of the Commissioner of the NFL," the union said.

The league must set a hearing date within 10 days, according to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The NFLPA is expected to argue that Rice was unfairly punished twice for the same action.

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