(SportsNetwork.com) – David Doty continued to be a thorn in the NFL’s side
Thursday, vacating an arbitration ruling that went against suspended Minnesota
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
From a legal standpoint it was a devastating rebuke of the league’s actions
and hardly the first by Doty, a pesky federal judge who actually cares about
silly little things like the rule of law.
Understand judges are loathe to overturn arbitration rulings in collectively-
bargained disputes, mindful of the Pandora’s Box it could open. And they are
steered to never overturn or vacate a decision if “the arbitrator is even
arguably construing or applying the CBA and acting within their authority.”
In the Peterson case, however, Doty was predictably appalled by the NFL’s now
almost consistent strategy of moving the goal posts based on public
perception, all the while leaning on commissioner Roger Goodell’s
collectively-bargained broad discretion in handing out punishments. . Peterson
was originally charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child for
striking his 4-year-old son with a switch in May and was placed on the
commissioner’s exempt list in September.
He was then suspended by Goodell in November for violating the new policy
after reaching a plea agreement in Texas. The NFLPA then filed an appeal on
behalf of Peterson that was upheld by league-appointed arbitrator Harold
Henderson in December.
When filing the lawsuit, the NFLPA accused the league of “making it up as it
goes along,” maintaining that Peterson’s harsh punishment came as a result of
the reaction from other non-related issues involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.
Doty agreed with that logic noting that Peterson was disciplined under the
league’s so-called “new personal-conduct policy,” which was fueled by the
reaction to Rice’s original punishment more than anything else, for actions
that happened before it even existed.
“Despite broad deference, the arbitration award was fatally flawed because it
allowed for retroactive application of new NFL Conduct Policy,” Doty
And Doty also accused Henderson, who has been called a rubber stamp for
Goodell by the NFLPA, of straying “beyond the issues submitted by the NFLPA
and in doing so exceeded his authority.”
“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness,” the NFLPA
said Thursday in a statement. “Our collective bargaining agreement has rules
for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are
violated, our union always stands up to protect our players’ rights. This is
yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for
the owners and good for our game.”
You should never underestimate the pettiness of Goodell, though. The NFL is
expected to appeal the decision made by Judge Doty, according to NFL Media,
despite the fact that the league lost an insignificant battle in a war that’s
After all, for Peterson and the NFPLA, this victory was as hollow as it gets.
Remember A.P. was forced to sit out the majority of the 2014 season, and
docked six game checks after the suspension kicked in. Meanwhile, his
relationship with the Vikings was irreparably damaged because he believes
higher-ups in the organization abandoned him during his time of need.
The veteran running back was eligible to be reinstated in about six weeks
anyway and by all accounts Goodell was not planning to try to keep him off the
field in ’15.
A black-eye at the hands of Doty is nothing when you factor in the league
already got everything it wanted. Peterson, as well as Rice and Hardy, was
kept off the field last season and a revamped, far harsher personal-conduct
policy was unilaterally implemented without union involvement in a true
Dieting is supposed to be one game you win when you lose. The NFL just found