8th Cir. Upholds NFL Running Back’s 2014 Fine

     (CN) — The Eighth Circuit on Thursday upheld the NFL’s 2014 suspension and fine of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, finding that the league’s arbitrator had authority to enforce the discipline.
     Peterson was indicted on Sept. 11, 2014, by a grand jury in Montgomery County, Texas, on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He was accused of beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch at his home in Spring, Texas, causing severe welts and bleeding on the child’s back, legs, buttocks and genitals.
     He reached a plea deal with prosecutors in November 2014, reducing the felony child-abuse charges he faced for a single charge of reckless assault, a misdemeanor for which he agreed to pay a $4,000 fine and perform community service.
     That same month, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Peterson and fined him “a sum equivalent to six games’ pay,” according to court records.
     The NFL Players Association sued the league shortly thereafter, challenging Goodell’s appointment of Harold Henderson as the arbitrator hearing Peterson’s appeal of his suspension. The union said Henderson, a former league executive, had “continuing financial ties to the NFL.”
     A federal judge had tossed out Henderson’s decision to uphold Peterson’s suspension and fine, but the Eighth Circuit on Thursday ruled that the arbitrator acted appropriately.
     “[Peterson] has resumed playing professional football, and this appeal does not involve his eligibility to play. The remaining dispute concerns whether the league may collect the fine imposed by the commissioner and upheld by the arbitrator,” Judge Steven Colloton wrote for a three-judge panel. “We conclude that the parties bargained to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator, and the arbitrator acted within his authority, so we reverse the district court’s judgment vacating the arbitration decision.”
     The St. Louis-based appeals court found that Henderson did not exceed his authority as an arbitrator under the league and union’s collective bargaining agreement.
     “The arbitrator at least arguably acted within the scope of the issues submitted to him, so his decision must be upheld,” Colloton wrote.
     Peterson’s fine amounts to $4.1 million, based on his 2014 salary of $11.75 million, according to a Star Tribune report.

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