Jesse Jackson: Ray Rice doesn't deserve 'lifetime sentence' for hitting wife

Jesse Jackson: Ray Rice doesn't deserve 'lifetime sentence' for hitting wife
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice speaks alongside his wife, Janay, at a news conference on May 23, 2014. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The Ray Rice campaign to give the running back another chance in the NFL received a powerful political backer Monday when the Rev. Jesse Jackson went on a Baltimore radio station to call for his return to the field.

"I feel very insulted by the silence about Ray's getting a chance to play ball again," Jackson said on WBAL-AM. "Adrian Peterson's back with Minnesota. He is playing. After Deflategate, [New England Patriots quarterback Tom] Brady will be playing. Ray did something terribly wrong and not only has he apologized with contrition, his wife forgave him, God has forgiven him, he wants to go on with his life."

Peterson pleaded no contest to a charge of reckless assault against his 4-year-old son last September. He was later suspended indefinitely by the league but reinstated in April and suited up for the Minnesota Vikings' preseason game Sunday.

Brady was suspended for four-games for his involvement in a scheme to underinflate footballs.

Rice, 28, has been effectively blacklisted by NFL teams since a video of him assaulting his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City elevator surfaced last summer. The Baltimore Ravens immediately cut Rice, and since his reinstatement to the league last November he remains unsigned.

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The 73-year-old civil rights leader isn't alone in his support of Rice's return to the NFL. Rice has received the support of his former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012-13 and who has been reaching out to NFL teams on his behalf.

"I try to call the people I know and have a relationship [with], but you don't know if they're being polite or if they really have an interest," Schiano said in a recent interview with ESPN.

He said those he's reached out to have noted that Rice could still play in the NFL.

"I think eventually someone will say 'I think he's worth it,'" Schiano said.

Rice rushed for 6,180 yards during the regular season over six years with the Ravens, including four seasons in which he put up more than 1,100 yards. In that time he won a Super Bowl with the Ravens and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.

"Give him a chance to play. Why give him a lifetime sentence for that? It's not fair," Jackson said. "What's he to do now with his life with this special skill at his age? This is not fair to him."

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme