(Reuters) - Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is due to begin making his case on Wednesday to return to the field after the National Football League indefinitely suspended him from the game for claims of domestic violence.
Rice, 27, claims that he was punished twice for the same offense, a one-punch knockout of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer during a February altercation at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is expected to attend the two days of hearings in New York, initially gave Rice a two-game suspension for the fight, but in September after video of the punch went viral, suspended the player indefinitely.
Rice says he explained the incident to Goodell, but the commissioner claims his account was “ambiguous” and was brought into focus when the video of the punch materialized.
Goodell said he had not seen the video from inside the casino’s elevator until it surfaced on the Internet.
The Ravens cut Rice and his $35 million contract, amid a wave of public criticism that the league had turned a blind eye to domestic violence by players.
Other Ravens executives and members of the players union are expected to speak during the hearing before arbitrator Barbara Jones, a former federal judge. The hearing will be closed to the press and public and Jones has issued a gag order forbidding participants from discussing it publicly.
Jones has issued a gag order requiring that all parties involved not comment on the pending hearing.
Goodell admitted that he “didn’t get it right” when he suspended Rice for just two games, and the league has since strengthened its penalties for domestic abuse.
The league also hired Lisa Friel, the former head of sex crimes prosecutions in the New York district attorney’s office, to help the NFL deal with domestic violence and sexual assault.
Should Jones side with Rice and his original two-game suspension, the six-year NFL veteran would be free to sign with any team.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Scott Malone