Late last night, the NFLPA officially filed a grievance on behalf of Ray Rice, appealing the indefinite suspension he received hours after tape of him punching out his fiancée was made public—and months after the NFL had decided a two-game suspension was appropriate. It sounds like that disciplinary dissonance is going to be the basis of his appeal.
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. We have asked that a neutral and jointly selected arbitrator hear this case as the Commissioner and his staff will be essential witnesses in the proceeding and thus cannot serve as impartial arbitrators.
That apparently won't be a problem. An NFL spokesman told the Baltimore Sun that Roger Goodell "never intended" to hear the appeal in a case in which he's serving as a witness, because that would be silly. (Not silly, according to the NFL: all the other personal conduct policy suspensions, in which the commissioner rules on the appeal of his own ruling.)
From an appendix to the NFLPA's statement titled "additional information":
Under governing labor law, an employee cannot be punished twice for the same action when all of the relevant facts were available to the employer at the time of the first punishment.
The hearing will require a neutral arbitrator to determine what information was available to the NFL and when it was available.
If you want to know what Rice's side is going to be arguing, there it is. When the NFL finally gave official justification for the indefinite suspension, it claimed the increased penalty was not for domestic violence, but for lying about the incident in a meeting with league executives.
Rice's defense may not touch on what he said in that meeting, but rather on whether that meeting should have mattered at all. The criminal complaint against him described exactly what happened in that elevator, and the NFLPA will argue that the NFL had all of the revenant facts at its disposal when it handed down a two-game suspension. That would, according to the union, make his second suspension double jeopardy under the CBA.
Will either side address the still-very-much-open question of whether the NFL had access to the elevator video before it was released? That's an excellent question. But the closed nature of the appeals hearing means that the proceedings, including Roger Goodell's testimony, won't be made public. At least, not through official channels.