NFL asks court to toss NFLPA’s lawsuit for Peterson
MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL has asked a federal court to reject the petition by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Adrian Peterson to have the star running back’s suspension overturned.
Attorneys for the league, in a 35-page filing Friday, wrote that U.S. labor law should prevent the court from handling a dispute already ruled on by the arbitrator for Peterson’s appeal.
The NFL argued that the NFLPA’s 74-page petition, filed Dec. 15, amounted to "nothing more than a transparent effort to re-litigate all of the issues" previously decided on by arbitrator Harold Henderson. Commissioner Roger Goodell, through the collective bargaining agreement between the two parties, has the power of discipline, the league wrote.
The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 in front of U.S. District Judge David Doty. The NFL suspended Peterson through at least April 15 for the child-abuse case he was involved in, and Peterson’s appeal was denied by Henderson, a former a league official.
The union accused Henderson of bias in the petition, but the NFL’s lawyers wrote that actual prejudice couldn’t be demonstrated.
"And evident partiality cannot serve as a basis for vacating an award," the league said.
The NFL also argued that, because Henderson ordered executive Troy Vincent to testify over the league’s objection, the long-time arbitrator was not favoring the NFL in his decision.
Peterson missed all but one game this season, serving paid leave on a special exempt list before the six-game suspension without pay was enacted.
The union, in the petition, said Henderson "ran roughshod over the required procedural protections of the CBA" and "summarily rubber-stamped the unlawful process and punishment of Mr. Peterson" with his ruling. Part of the NFLPA’s argument against the suspension was "fundamental unfairness," citing the enhanced domestic violence policy that took effect in August, more than three months after the injuries occurred to Peterson’s 4-year-old son. The union accused Goodell of punishing Peterson to satiate "public calls for his resignation due to prior disciplinary failures" and said he picked Henderson to hear the appeal to "to avoid another embarrassing reversal" of his decision.
But the NFL, in the filing Friday, said the issue of "fundamental fairness" has never been recognized "as a basis for vacating an arbitration award" in the federal court system.
Peterson will turn 30 in March. His contract calls for a $12.75 million salary in 2015 with a hit to the team’s salary cap of $15.4 million, putting his status with the Vikings in question. General manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and several teammates have said they support Peterson and would welcome his return. But Spielman sidestepped questions this week about whether the Vikings can afford to keep him on the roster.