The Chris Brown type supporting Ray Rice fans who still support their man in spite of proof before their eyes of a violent attack in February on Janay Rice need a reality check. On Thursday night with the Ravens game held in Baltimore against the Pittsburgh Steelers, many Baltimore Ravens fans, both men and women, were spotted wearing Ray Rice’s No. 27 jersey, standing by their man. Many fans, who were interviewed, did not think that Rice deserved to be terminated from the Ravens and receive an indefinite suspension from the NFL. There are two sides to a coin and often two sides to a discussion. However, in this instance, those in full support of Ray Rice are in denial of what occurred and misunderstand why he was terminated from the Ravens.
Supporting Rice fans on Thursday stated it was a personal matter between Rice and his now wife, Janay Rice. It was a personal matter. As for former NFL player Ray Rice, his employment contract, as with all NFL contracts, had a morals clause. NFL contracts and most endorsement company contracts have what is termed a “morals clause”. These morals clauses allow a team, company or sports league to terminate a player’s contract for criminal activity or behavior or conduct that is unbefitting to an athlete or the team’s brands. Morals clauses are general in nature and may cover a large range of incidents. In legal terms, they may be referred to as a “catch – all” category. Morals clauses are found also in the NBA, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) and National Hockey League (“NHL”). These clauses are in the leagues’ constitutions and in the players individual contracts giving power to a team or Commissioner to fine, suspend or terminate a player whose behavior or conduct does not conform to standards of morality, is in violation of criminal laws or is otherwise detrimental to the team or league.
Many sports players are also terminated from endorsement contracts due to a morals clause as in the case of Tiger Woods for his infidelity to his now ex-wife due to the famous mistresses scandal. It was a personal matter that was not criminal but yet the morals clause caused him to lose his many multi-million dollar endorsements at that time. Other athletes lost lucrative endorsement contracts due to a morals clause such as Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant and Olympic Gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps for admitting to marijuana use. And in the case of morals clauses, there are many behaviors that may cause a termination that do not result in a criminal conviction such as arrests for drunk driving, drug use, domestic scandals and public fights. Generally speaking, a morals clause is always in the best interest of the employer, team, company or franchise. They are always subjective in the eyes of the entity enforcing the clause and give them absolute discretion to enforce them.
However, in many instances, employees have personal matters that cause their termination from the job. By way of example, some federal government employees with a high security clearance who are arrested for an assault without a conviction may be subject to termination. Having represented persons in this position, I was surprised to learn at the time that even without a conviction, it can cause job jeopardy. And as a prosecutor, my former office had a no tolerance policy against drunk driving arrests and other “personal” criminal offenses occurring on personal time. A drunk driving arrest was cause for termination. In some corporate employee positions, an assault on a wife, family member or others can lead to termination of one’s job. And Catholic schools are now requiring their teachers to sign morality clauses which could invalidate their employment for behavior similar to Rice’s elevator assault.
Some of the Baltimore Ravens fans who support Ray Rice may also be employed in positions and jobs that will result in their termination due to morality clauses. These Rice supporters need a reality check.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor who often appears in the media addressing issues of gender and race in the law.