NFLPA files federal lawsuit in Peterson case

The players union is taking Adrian Peterson’s suspension from the NFL to a federal court with a lawsuit filed Monday.

The NFL Player Association has filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking the court to vacate an arbitrator’s decision to uphold Adrian Peterson’s suspension until “at least” April 15.

The NFLPA filed the suit Monday morning, claiming arbiter Harold Henderson was “evidently partial” in his ruling and cited his long history of siding with the NFL and being under its employ from 1991 to 2012.

Peterson was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season after pleading no contest to reckless assault on Nov. 4 stemming from child abuse charges in Texas from a May incident in which Peterson admitted to using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son. On Friday, the NFL announced that Henderson upheld the suspension and fined him six game checks.

The NFLPA countered with its lawsuit to vacate the suspension on Monday.

“This Petition presents the Court with the rare Arbitration Award that must be set aside,” the lawsuit read. “The Award is legally defective in myriad respects: it is contrary to the essence of the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”); it defies fundamental principles of notice, fairness, and consistency; and it was rendered by an evidently partial arbitrator who exceeded the scope of his authority.”

The NFLPA suit contends that the NFL shouldn’t be able to apply its new personal conduct policy to Peterson’s case because the policy was just recently announced while Peterson’s incident occurred in May. The suit also mentions numerous other acts of domestic abuse dating back several years in which the NFL suspended the player for only two games. Peterson hasn’t played for the Minnesota Vikings since the regular-season opener on Sept. 7.

The suit also alleges that the NFL improperly used the Commissioner’s Exempt List and didn’t take into account Peterson’s time served there when issuing a suspension after his appeal. Peterson was paid while on the exempt list, but the NFLPA argues that Peterson’s punishment goes beyond a paycheck because of the short shelf life of NFL players to earn their income while playing.

The lawsuit repeated cited a recorded phone conversation in which NFL executive Troy Vincent insinuated that Peterson would only receive a two-game suspension if he attended a hearing with NFL-appointed counselors and doctors present to assess his state of mind and level of remorse. The union said that requested meeting, which Peterson did not attend, is outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement.

“Whatever one thinks of Mr. Peterson’s behavior, he was entitled to fair and consistent treatment under the CBA, in accordance with the disciplinary polices in effect at the time of the behavior for which the League seeks to punish him,” the lawsuit reads.

In addition, the union argued that the NFL’s timeline to consider Peterson’s reinstatement, no earlier than April 15, could affect Peterson’s future earnings power, too.

“If the Vikings terminate Mr. Peterson’s contract, he will find himself in limbo during the start of next year’s free agency period in March,” the union argues. “This imposition of delayed and uncertain reinstatement constitutes a further unauthorized punishment causing irreparable harm to Mr. Peterson’s future in the NFL.”

The union filed a motion to expedite the case and claims that Goodell’s suspension of Peterson was a reaction to “overwhelming criticism” from the public about the league’s domestic violence punishments.

“Rather than negotiate in good faith with the NFLPA on a new disciplinary policy to be applied to NFL players, Commissioner Goodell has tried to dig his way out of the public maelstrom by arbitrarily applying disciplinary measures, for purposes of public consumption, and subordinating NFL players’ CBA and arbitral rights,” the NFLPA wrote in its lawsuit. “The Arbitration Award sustaining Mr. Peterson’s punishment is just the latest manifestation of the Commissioner’s recent history of applying disciplinary procedures to players in an arbitrary and inconsistent fashion at his whim.”


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