By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — We’re learning new information about Ray Rice’s appeal and why its success could depend upon two critical meetings with the NFL commissioner.

Mike Hellgren has the latest twists in the Rice scandal.

Rice, his wife and the commissioner met twice. Do their accounts of what happened differ? All are now witnesses with the commissioner’s credibility on the line.

In their fight against Rice’s punishment, the NFL Players Association says facts show “a lack of a fair and impartial process” and the union puts the blame squarely on Commissioner Roger Goodell, demanding “a neutral and jointly selected arbitrator” hear the appeal, noting “the commissioner and his staff will be essential witnesses.”

“The union is where it’s always been. We’re with our members. And as emotional as you can be about the issue, your duty is to protect the rights of the player,” said DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association executive.

The NFL says Goodell always intended to have a third party hear any appeal.

During a press conference six weeks ago, as his wife watched, Rice said he never wanted to fight the NFL.

“The punishment was the punishment, and I never planned on appealing any kind of punishment. So whether it was two games, four games, six games, eight games, I was going to own my actions and be a man about it and take whatever was given to me,” Rice said.

But that was when Rice was only suspended for two games. The union claims Rice can’t be punished twice, and contends the NFL, despite Goodell’s denials, always knew about the punch video.

The appeal comes as a growing number of sponsors are closely watching the league’s handling of the case. And in the big money business of football, that makes owners nervous.

“I want our players to be good men, good husbands, good fathers, good men in their community,” Smith said. “If there is an instance where that conduct has fallen below that standard, that’s not a good week for our players, let alone the National Football League.”

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred just wrapped up a press conference, alleging Commissioner Roger Goodell ignored complaints of domestic violence. And the Black Women’s Roundtable criticized him for not having any black women on a new panel advising the league on domestic violence policy.

The NFL has ten days to set a hearing date in Rice’s appeal.

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