As the NFL Players Association prepares to present its appeal of Adrian Peterson’s suspension, the unions lead officer dealing with domestic violence is hoping Peterson receives a fair process, something Teri Patterson doesn’t believe has happened to this point in Peterson’s case.
Peterson was charged with child abuse in September after playing in the Minnesota Vikings’ season opener, didn’t play the rest of the season while dealing with that case, in which he eventually pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault. Still, the NFL didn’t count his time on the commissioner’s exempt list in issuing a six-game suspension under the personnel conduct policy that invoked stricter discipline for domestic violence.
“Our hope is that basically he gets his due process, and at that point everything that he is able to retain or retrieve … so much has been lost and he didn’t deserve all of it – he didn’t deserve an arbitrary process,” said Patterson, the deputy COO for the NFLPA who specializes in domestic violence. “That’s not why the union was established and that’s not why we all signed the CBA four years ago.”
The union has contended that the stricter guidelines instituted by the NFL didn’t fall within the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement.
“The new personal conduct policy … violated the CBA in several ways, and we’re going to be grieving this as far as we can,” NFLPA president Eric Winston said. “Very simply put, we have an agreement with the league, they have an agreement with us, and we’re going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this personal conduct policy falls outside the CBA, and we’re going to continue to fight it going forward because we believe in it. We believe that the agreement that we struck in 2011 is to be preserved, and what we agreed to should always be going forward until it’s collectively bargained differently.”
Peterson was given a six-game suspension and won’t be eligible for reinstatement until at least April 15, according to the NFL’s announcement of his discipline, but the NFLPA is scheduled to argue against that discipline Friday in a federal court in Minneapolis.
“The hope is that he is treated fairly. A lot has been taken away from him at this point,” Patterson said. “There are things that people don’t talk about, but their bodies perhaps can deteriorate while they’re not playing. They lose out on the opportunity to earn bonuses and such. Some may say, ‘Hey, he deserves that based on his behavior,’ but it’s not necessarily fair if you’re making it up as you go along.”
Some believe that Peterson was given harsher discipline because his case came in the wake of Ray Rice’s domestic violence case, where the league initially gave Rice a two-game suspension, then suspended him indefinitely after an elevator video became public that showed him knocking unconscious his then-fiance Janay Parker. The league was roundly criticized for its handling of that case, Rice appealed his discipline and an independent court called for his immediate reinstatement into the league in December. He has remained unsigned since then.
Peterson’s discipline was upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson, who was appointed by the NFL. The union believes cases like these should be heard by an independent arbitrator.
“I think both players got a raw deal because they were in a world where discipline was arbitrarily imposed upon them and that is not consistent with our collective bargaining history,” Patterson said. “And that’s not consistent with optimal solutions in anything we’ve ever done with the league. That’s the part of the raw deal I see.”
Patterson declined to speak about the league requiring Peterson to get counseling, deferring to the legal process, but she did participate in some of the collective bargaining, although she indicated what was suggested wasn’t always implemented.
She stressed that the NFLPA prefers to focus on prevention, not discipline.
“I think that we all (the union and NFL) think the same thing: We do not condone the behavior. We find it deplorable and none of us advocates for misconduct, but our approach, it couldn’t be more on the opposite ends of the spectrum,” she said. “The NFL, as I’ve understood, is very much zero tolerance. They’re very much about penalties, making sure players aren’t on the field if they act out or do something. We’re on the other side. We believe that we should approach the domestic violence issue with a mind of prevention and 100 percent support.
“So what we try to do is make sure that our players are educated on the issue and basically what not to do. We want to make sure that they know we support them in being good husbands, good fathers, good sons, good brothers. We want to make sure they know they have resources in place if something does happen, but we would rather instill certain characteristics and traits in them ahead of time so that we can work more towards a solution in terms of preventing domestic violence and figuring out how to deal with it after the fact.”
Peterson’s hearing on Friday will be a start in determining if the NFL overstepped its bounds in disciplining him and if the new personal conduct policy, with its stricter approach to discipline, needs to be collectively bargained.
NFLPA: A.P. didn’t deserve arbitrary process
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