Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s suspension from the NFL has been overturned by a federal judge. The suspension was challenged by the NFL Players Union on the grounds that it violated Peterson’s due process rights and that the arbitrator acted improperly in applying the penalty.
U.S. District Court Judge David Doty’s 16-page order found arbitrator Harold Henderson, a former league official, to have issued a ruling “inconsistent” with the players’ collective bargaining agreement.
“It is undisputed that under the previous policy, first-time offenders faced a likely maximum suspension of two games,” Doty wrote.
The NFL issued a single-sentence statement saying, “We will review the decision.” The league’s options appear to be an appeal, another arbitration or reinstatement of Peterson. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said Thursday afternoon that the league plans to appeal.
Peterson’s suspension would have ended on April 15.
Messages left for Peterson were not immediately returned.
He was sidelined because of a Sept. 12 indictment in Texas for whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch and placed on the commissioner’s exempt list Sept. 17. The league’s 2012 Most Valuable Player was on the field for only one game with the Vikings last season.
While Doty’s ruling is a clear victory for Peterson, what it means for his future is unclear. The judge sent the case back to the arbitrator for further proceedings “consistent” with the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith hailed the ruling as “a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness.”
Doty sided entirely with the NFLPA in his order, focusing mostly on how Peterson’s suspension ignored the established law of the shop, “namely that the new policy may not be retroactively applied.”
The NFL suspended Peterson on Nov. 18 after his no-contest plea in Montgomery County, Texas, to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of his young son. His suspension was to last until at least April 15, if he fulfilled requirements set by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, such as counseling and therapy with an NFL-selected doctor. The NFLPA and Peterson went to arbitration, but Henderson ruled against the running back.
The court made a point of saying that Peterson was caught up in the “firestorm” over Goodell’s two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, whose knockout punch to his then-fiancee was captured on a hotel security camera.
Meanwhile, Peterson lost a year of his career unnecessarily. Where does he go to get that year back?
At the time of the indictment, Peterson made it clear that he was only punishing his kid the same way his own father punished him. He never seemed to grasp the fact that it was, indeed, child abuse to whip and strike your son. There are lines in parenting that shouldn’t be crossed, and Peterson went far beyond the notion of applying discipline in punishing his child.
In today’s culture, any physical punishment of children can be construed as child abuse. That’s taking things too far. But punishing Peterson for what he did — using a switch to beat his child — has nothing to do with political correctness.
Since he apologized and has completed court ordered treatment, Peterson should be allowed back on the team. But there are other issues unresolved, including a formal punishment from the league. Suffice it to say that Peterson may be a long way from returning as the most feared runner in the game.