MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Adrian Peterson’s hearing for the appeal of his suspension will be held on Dec. 2. And it will not be in front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFL announced Friday that longtime hearing officer Harold Henderson will preside over the proceedings involving the Minnesota Vikings star running back. Goodell has the authority to decide whether to hear the appeal himself or appoint someone else.
Peterson has not played since the opening week of the season while dealing with child abuse allegations in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.
Goodell suspended Peterson earlier this week for the rest of the season and told Peterson that he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Peterson is appealing the punishment, which the NFL Players Association called "unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful."
The union had been seeking a neutral arbitrator to oversee the appeal, saying the league "is making up the process and punishment as it goes."
Henderson worked for the league as chairman of its powerful Management Council’s executive committee for 16 years. He also was a league vice president of labor relations.
He led the league’s negotiation team, which settled several lawsuits by NFL players and ultimately entered into a new collective bargaining agreement which included expanded free agency and a salary cap. That agreement has been extended several times, most recently through 2021. He regularly deals with NFL team owners, team executives, players, players’ union, player agents and attorneys on a variety of matters.
Henderson’s long history of working for the league did little to assuage the union’s concerns about the process.
"The NFL should stop attempting to position a former NFL executive as neutral and independent," the union said. "It is disappointing the league office made a decision to ignore the players’ request for fairness."
The NFL argued that Goodell’s right to preside over appeals or choose an official has been part of the collective bargaining agreement since 1993. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said criticism of Henderson is unwarranted given his current position as president of the NFL Player Care Foundation, which is funded jointly by the union and the league; and his experience in hearing 87 appeals, including one from receiver Brandon Marshall that ended with his three-game suspension for a domestic violence incident being reduced to one game.
Goodell’s punishment of Peterson comes under the new player conduct policy he unveiled in August. That came in the wake of criticism he received for his initial light treatment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his then-fiancee in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was later suspended indefinitely, cut by the Ravens, and recently had his appeal heard by an arbitrator.
The new, tougher guidelines call for a six-game suspension for the first assault, battery or domestic violence offense.