(Reuters) - A two-day appeal hearing that former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hopes will result in his immediate reinstatement to the National Football League began Wednesday in midtown Manhattan.
Rice arrived at the hearing at 9:15 a.m. holding hands with his wife, Janay Palmer, the woman he knocked out in a one-punch fight inside an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino elevator in February.
The altercation triggered widespread criticism of how NFL Commissioner Goodell handles cases of domestic violence and led to the league’s strengthening its policies against such crimes.
Rice, 27, a six-year NFL veteran, will argue that he was sanctioned twice by the league for the same offense.
Goodell, who is expected to testify at the hearing, suspended Rice in July for two games for punching Palmer, who was his fiancé at the time of the incident.
But in September, when surveillance video surfaced of the knockout from inside the elevator, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens released the three-time Pro Bowler.
Goodell says he had not seen the knockout punch until it emerged on the Internet, and it constituted new evidence in the case. The NFL players union says Goodell knew everything that happened all along and that the commissioner was swayed by public reaction to the punch.
Rice was indicted in March on third-degree aggravated assault, but the charge was dropped because Palmer declined to testify against him. He ultimately agreed to court-supervised counseling as part of a pre-trial intervention program.
The NFL hearing, before independent arbitrator Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, is expected to conclude Thursday. Jones has instituted a gag order and neither side is expected to speak publicly about the hearing.
In addition to Goodell and Rice, others expected to testify at the hearing include league security chief Jeffrey Miller and Ravens President Dick Cass.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Eric Beech