MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – The National Football League Players Association on Monday asked a federal judge to vacate an arbitrator’s award that backed the NFL’s decision to suspend Adrian Peterson indefinitely.
The NFLPA, on its own behalf and for Peterson, filed the petition to vacate the arbitration award, against the NFL and the National Football League Management Council.
The redacted, 75-page petition is the latest legal move involving NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to discipline Peterson for domestic violence, under a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. Peterson was accused of striking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. He was charged in May with misdemeanor reckless assault – 4 months before the NFL enacted its new policy.
While the criminal proceeding was pending, the NFLPA, says Peterson was deactivated for one game by the Minnesota Vikings and agreed to be placed on the “Commissioner’s Exempt List,” which would bar him from playing in NFL games until the criminal proceeding ran its course.
On Nov. 5, after the criminal charges had been resolved, Peterson, a running back, expected to return to the Minnesota Vikings.
On Nov. 18, however, Goodell informed him that “he was being formally suspended under the new policy for ‘at least’ the remainder of the 2014 season, i.e. with no definitive end to the suspension,” the NFLPA says in the petition.
Before implementation of the new policy, no first-time offender had ever received more than a two-game suspension for domestic violence, according to the petition.
In response to the NFL’s new policy, the NFLPA and Peterson appealed his unprecedented discipline and demanded that the NFL agree to an impartial arbitrator from outside the NFL.
However, “Commissioner Goodell appointed Harold Henderson – a long-time NFL executive, consultant, and insider with substantial continuing financial ties to the NFL – to serve as Hearing Officer over Mr. Peterson’s arbitration appeal” the NFLPA states.
The NFLPA cites three reasons why Peterson should be reinstated and the arbitration award should be vacated under the Labor Management Relations Act and Federal Arbitration Act.
First, the NFLPA says Goodell’s retroactive application of the new policy to Peterson’s conduct occurred more than 3 months before the new policy was implemented.
Second, Henderson was “partial” in ruling on the conduct of NFL executives to whom he is closely connected.
Third, the arbitration award fails to “draw its essence” from the collective bargaining agreement, as Goodell’s discipline was not collectively bargained for and not authorized by the collective bargaining agreement.
“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 petition states. “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.”
The NFLPA wants the arbitration award vacated and Peterson reinstated immediately, as he has already served more than the two-game suspension he was handed.
The NFLPA is represented by Barbara Podlucky Berens with Berens & Miller.
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