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Brace yourselves NFL fans: Ray Rice, who cold-cocked his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator and dragged her on the floor like a sack of potatoes, could return to the field. Rice, 27, the ex-Baltimore Ravens running back, will appeal his indefinite domestic violence ban from the NFL in early November. The hearing for Rice’s appeal is set for Wednesday Nov. 5 and Thursday Nov. 6. He could very likely win his appeal, be reinstated and lobby to be picked up by an NFL team.

We all make mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance – including Rice. But I would certainly like to see more time pass before Rice suits up for a game so we know he’s taking domestic violence seriously, that he’s going to therapy as promised, and, most importantly, that he’s not still abusing his wife. A photograph of a man in blackface wearing a Ray Rice Halloween costume and holding a black blowup doll by the hair, forced Janay Rice to respond via Twitter: “It’s sad that my suffering amuses others.”

I hope Palmer isn’t subjected to any more suffering, especially since she married Rice shortly after he knocked her out with a ferocious punch and showed no immediate remorse for his violent behavior. In my last column about Rice, I received several comments from female readers who said Rice deserved to return to the NFL because he needs to support his wife and family. Their argument was that his wife and daughter shouldn’t be penalized financially because of Rice’s abuse. So I guess it’s better to have Rice working and continue to overlook his violent tendencies?

After his arrest in February, Rice was initially suspended for two games after agreeing to enter a diversion program and therapy. Once the video, taken from a surveillance camera in an elevator at the now closed Revel Casino in Atlantic City, became public in July, Rice was suspended indefinitely by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell has come under heavy criticism for his initially weak punishment but claimed the NFL had never seen the tape, although Associated Press reported on its existence months ago. Goodell has been ordered to testify at Rice’s hearing. According to published reports, Rice argues that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement permits one punishment for the infraction. Then, immediately after the video surfaced, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

If successful on both grievances, Rice would be eligible to receive $3.52 million from the Ravens. Last month, I attended a press conference where a coalition of prominent African-American women asked for an emergency meeting with Goodell to urge him to hire Black women to serve on the NFL’s all-white Domestic Violence Advisory Board.

The black women’s group did meet with top NFL executives, but Goodell was noticeably absent. I support their message: Hitting a woman is absolutely unacceptable and an NFL player who strikes a woman, in my view, should be automatically suspended. But Rice may be on solid legal ground and could be reinstated to the NFL.

That’s doesn’t necessarily mean an NFL team would jump to sign him as any team would likely take considerable criticism for hiring a man who callously knocked out the woman he claims to love. “I failed miserably,” Rice said during a press conference earlier this year. “But I wouldn’t call myself a failure because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice is working his way back and the NFL may just have to allow him a second chance. I just hope he’s a changed man and has learned from his past mistakes.

What do you think?

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