Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice won his appeal of an indefinite suspension Friday and has been reinstated to the NFL. Rice, who was suspended for knocking his then-fiancée Janay Rice unconscious in February, is now eligible to sign with any NFL team.
"I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans — but most importantly, my wife Janay," Rice said in a statement Friday. "I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions.
"I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue. I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes."
Rice was originally only suspended for two games, plus an additional fine of one week's salary. But after a video from inside the elevator where Rice hit Janay was posted online in September, the Ravens let Rice go, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely, claiming the video revealed a "starkly difference sequence of events."
Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who heard Rice's appeal, concluded that since Rice did not lie or mislead Goodell, "the imposition of the indefinite suspension was arbitrary."
Throughout the ordeal, Janay Rice has stood by and defended her husband, whom she married a little over a month after the incident in Atlantic City. Earlier this month, she gave an in-depth interview to share her version of what happened in the elevator, admitting that neither she nor Rice even remember what they were arguing about. "It was that insignificant," Janay told ESPN.
"As we were arguing, he was on his phone and not looking at me. I went to reach for his phone, and when he grabbed it back, he spit at me and I slapped him," she continued. "We got into the elevator and what happened inside is still foggy to me. The only thing I know — and I can't even say I 'remember' because I only know from what Ray has told me — is that I slapped him again and then he hit me. I remember nothing else from inside the elevator."
Janay said that Rice took full responsibility for the incident, but that nothing could have prepared them for the first video of the assault to leak. "The video didn't make me rethink our relationship, but I did want more of an explanation from him," Janay said. "I asked him why he left me on the floor like that. I asked him how he felt when he saw that I was unconscious. He told me he was in shock. I asked him what happened when we got out of the elevator. He told me he was terrified because security was there. I asked him how he felt seeing me like that. He said he was thinking, 'What did I just do?' I didn't watch the video again."
"We know our incident led to very important discussions to hashtags of 'why I stayed; and 'why I left.' If it took our situation becoming headline news to show domestic violence is happening in this country, that's a positive," Janay concluded. "I hope when people read this they realize that we're real. I want people to know how much we love each other and how far we've come. Everyone has their own story, this is mine."
The couple also sat down with Matt Lauer for a two-part interview that will air on Monday and Tuesday on the Today show.
"I just knew he hit me, and I was completely over it. I was done," Janay tells Lauer. "Of course in the back of my mind and in my heart, I knew that our relationship wouldn't be over because I know that this isn't us, and it's not him."
Watch a clip of the interview below: