Nebraska plays Miami tonight, and “Ray Rice’s Indefinite Suspension Should Be Reversed on Appeal”

Photo credit: Ted Kirk/Lincoln Journal Star. Nebraska's Jeff Smith has a two-point conversion pass from Turner Gill batted away in the fourth quarter against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

Photo credit: Ted Kirk/Lincoln Journal Star. The Huskers’ failed two-point play in the fourth quarter against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

Some of you are old enough to remember when Tom Osborne went for two, seeking a win against Miami rather than a tie. Had Dr.Tom simply kicked the extra point, his Huskers would have been national champions that year. But Osborne did  not think or play that way. The Huskers went for two points, a defensive back from Miami swatted the short pass away from the Husker receiver, and Miami won. If sports can teach young people, this was one of the greatest teaching moments of the modern era.

Tonight, the Huskers play Miami again here in Lincoln, under the lights and on national television. Our little town in our little state is all a twitter. And, that, of course, brings me to Ray Rice.

I love football. I love high school football.* I love college football. I love the NFL. I don’t care much about Ray Rice or whether he will win his appeal of his indefinite suspension. But, I do care about good legal writing.

Levi S. Zaslow

Levi S. Zaslow

Levi S. Zaslow is a young lawyer in Maryland. He has written a terrific piece explaining why Ray Rice should win his appeal of the indefinite suspension for beating his wife after he was first punished by the Commissioner of the NFL with a two game suspension. See Levi S. Zaslow, The Legal Appeal of the Ray Rice Appeal: Despite a Broken Process, Ray Rice’s Indefinite Suspension Should Be Reversed on Appeal (September 18, 2014). It is very nice piece of legal writing about due process and the strange world where the NFL and the League’s detractors confront the realities of labor and employment law. Go read it, and, go Huskers!


*As I have mentioned before, one of the best moments of my life was when Dr. R. Keller Kopf, then 18, ran onto the turf at Memorial Stadium while pictured on the big screen at the beginning of the Class A state football championship. As the “small tight end,” Keller made me proud. I knew how hard he had worked to build his body and mind to a point that would allow him to play in such a game. The perseverance he learned in that endeavor served him well later on, and serves him well even now.

R. Keller Kopf, Institute for Land, Water & Society, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales Australia

R. Keller Kopf, Institute for Land, Water & Society, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales Australia


23 responses

  1. Hate Nebraska (football–love the movie Nebraska, the Omaha zoo, and Nebraskans, but hate, hate, hate their football team). I’ll never forgive the flea kicker win against Mizzou. But I always respected the decision to go for two in the Orange Bowl. Champions play to win.

  2. Judge:
    The article is extremely well written and based on facts, not the hysteria associated with the NFL’s handling of Mr. Rice. I offer what might be a contrarian view of things: professional sports leagues appear to be ill-equipped to deal with problems of this type. In theory, if not in fact, a league commissioner could say something to the effect that “I am the steward of the players’ professional lives but not their personal lives. The courts can and should deal first with these issues when an allegation of wrongdoing has come about but we are, at best, in a secondary position.” This does not preclude attempting to fully educate the players about domestic violence or any other prominent social concern, nor does it prevent imposing reasonable discipline as per the relevant CBA. But, as with other employers who leave it to the criminal and family courts to sort these things out, the employer is not the primary source of redress. That said, I realize that a ten billion dollar a year industry whose product is beamed into people’s homes every week (and which wants to increase its share of female fans) cannot take such a hands off attitude. But, as we have seen for the past several weeks, the opposite approach creates its own set of problems.

  3. 1. Hypo.: Would Bo go for two in a similar case?

    2. MSNBC won’t like the double jeopardy argument so watch it be ignored. They only like unions that serve their narrative.

  4. It is not double jeopardy since rights are contractual not constitutional and process is not criminal. As a cornhead coming from a mostly at will and right to work state why the sudden sympathy for union workers? Arbiters job is to take the heat when public opinion is driving management decisions, not that different from politics. Suspect more than one government lawyer has advised political masters to let the courts fix it and take the heat.

  5. My college football experience at Indiana University included a trip to the Rose Bowl in 1968. That was the only time I.U. has gone to the Rose Bowl. The star of the opponent’s team was O.J. Simpson. Years later, I looked at my Arbutus (I.U. yearbook) and discovered O.J. prominently featured!

    I have to say that law school at Michigan nurtured a much more sustained interest in football. Go Wolverines!

    However – when it comes to basketball – that is a different and more complicated story.

  6. Okay football fans. Let’s hear it for the Hoosiers! I am so happy for them. They beat Missouri 31-26 at Missouri. Indiana’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2006. Really a thrill for all I.U. fans.

    Now – as to the Wolverines. The game may never end. It was delayed because of lightning. It’s hard to imagine a more disheartening end (assuming it ended!) at the Big House. I don’t remember having a more exciting day for I.U. football than for Michigan football. Perhaps the Big Ten is truly in transition.

  7. I have never been happy about extralegal sanctions for criminal acts and now it appears that they are subject to what amounts to resentencing. What next?

  8. I don’t think that position is tenable for the NFL. As a league, they depend hugely on the celebrity of their top players.

    When you employ talent as a public face of an organization, you absolutely do regulate their personal behavior as it might reflect on your brand. Almost every TV personality has a morals clause in their contract that lets them be fired at any time if they do something bad for pr. See Paula Deen, or the Duck Dynasty guys getting canned.

    I can’t speak to the content of the NFL cba. But from a standpoint of a public brand with star personalities, a video of your star knocking a woman out is toxic.

  9. Peter H.,

    The position may not be tenable as a PR matter for the NFL, but, as Levi demonstrates, the NFL has a collective bargaining agreement–basically a set of “private” laws–that it is bound to respect. That, too, is legal realism. We may not like the results–Rice being reinstated after two games–but the “law” seemingly requires it. Hard cases make bad law, so the saying goes. The public will need to get over it, and hopefully learn from it.

    All the best.


  10. I posted first to compliment Levi on this article –but I can’t hold back commenting as well on the Nebraska / Miami game that was played for “broke”. As a dyed-in-the-wool Michigan State fan, I can tell you that I remember that Orange Bowl in 1984 — and we cheer even now for the MEN who “went for it” in that game.

    Those of you with long memories will recall Ara Parseghian’s “cowardly” decision in the so-called “game of the century” in 1966 to play for a tie when the national championship was at stake rather than the win — prompting news commentators to say they had “tied one for the gipper”.

    Of course that was a high drama game, MSU and Notre Dame were both undefeated in the final game of the season. ND was ranked #1 in the polls and MSU #2 so the game was effectively being played for the national championship (bows were not a factor in those years) — Notre Dame played for the tie and got the national championship.

    … and to this day — we cheer the men of Nebraska!!


  11. To the proud father of football player Keller Kopf – You omitted some key information. You said he ran onto the field. But – you did not say how the game went and who won! Also, is Class A for the small schools or the large schools? In Indiana, Class A is the category for the smallest schools.

    As you may know, at least in the world of hoops, the idea of having classes of schools in Indiana has been criticized. It takes away the chance for a victory as shown in the movie, Hoosiers. That championship team in real life was Milan with Bobby Plump. So is there a similar discussion in Nebraska about ranking schools by class? Was your son being in a Class A school a good thing?

  12. The advantage of private contracts is that unlike public law they can be re-negotiated. Even if Rice would be able to win an appeal or lawsuit, the NFL could pay him off to leave the league forever. And arguably they should (with a heck of a confidentiality clause slapped onto the settlement).

  13. Judge Fuller, Ray Rice, and Tom Osborne. It is almost as if there is sub rosa self-admonition going on behind the scenes.

    Roger Goodell wants Ray Rice gone because his presence damages the NFL’s “brand.” You want to make Judge Fuller disappear because he tarnishes your “brand” (the federal courts). If it didn’t hurt your brands, my guess is that neither one of you could give a rip.

    Ray Rice has rights. So does Mark Fuller. And they have “a right to play,” even if you don’t like it. Even if it reflects poorly on your “brand.”

    It is almost as if you are lamenting that you do not measure up to greats like Osborne. Men who had the courage to stand up and do the right thing, even when it could cost him.

    What would Tom Osborne have done? Would he have owned his failure, if he were Commissioner? Would he have owned the pathetic state and (sadly, well-deserved) reputation of the federal courts? Would he be less about appearance and more about substance?

    Don Shula once said that he didn’t know any other way to lead than by example. Stop lamenting the past and start setting that example. When you fall short, own it.

    PS: Not much Huskers news on this side of the Pond. Glad to hear of the win. We lost to Utah, and I had to cry in my Guinness. And yes, Bo would have gone for two. Just don’t ask him to pass for it.

  14. Elaine, they won the championship. The only game that season that they lost is ’cause Keller missed a block. He was heart broken. Class A is the large school class in Nebraska. He learned a lot trying to play with the best, so, yes, competiting in Class A was good for Boyo.

    All the best.


  15. Wolverine,

    Bo played at Ohio State. Like Woody, he believes in three yards and a cloud of dust (rubber turf). Unlike Woody, I hope Bo doesn’t slug one of the opponent’s kids running up the sidelines.

    All the best.


%d bloggers like this: