Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has won an appeal of his indefinite suspension for domestic violence and is now eligible to sign with any National Football League team, the league said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice, 27, in July for two games for punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious during an altercation at a casino in February.
But after elevator security video surfaced in September of Rice's one-punch knockout, the Baltimore Ravens released the three-time Pro Bowler, and his $35 million contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
The hearing officer in the appeal this month concluded that Rice did not mislead Goodell when he disciplined Rice the first time and therefore the commissioner acted arbitrarily in imposing a second, harsher punishment based on the same incident and known facts.
"I do not doubt that viewing the video in September evoked horror in commissioner Goodell as it did with the public. But this does not change the fact that Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL at the June 16 meeting," former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones said.
Rice said in a statement on Friday that he made "an inexcusable mistake." He said he accepts responsibility and will work to improve himself as a husband while giving back to the community.
"I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue," he said.
The NFL said in a statement that it respects the judge's decision, and that Rice is a free agent and would be eligible to play upon signing a new contract.