Earlier this morning, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NFL’s suspension of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for allegedly abusing his child was proper. By upholding the suspension, it hands another major victory to both the league and to Commissioner Roger Goodell, It continues to reaffirm his power to discipline players. The decision also sends another setback to DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA in their ongoing battle with Goodell.
Peterson pled no contest to a charge of misdemeanor reckless assault in November after hitting his son with a switch, and the NFL suspended him for a then-indefinite period on Nov. 18. The NFLPA then filed a grievance against the NFL and its management council on Peterson’s behalf, claiming that he should have been punished under the prior conduct policy, which had a maximum suspension of two games. But Goodell-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the suspension.
In February 2015, U.S. District Judge David S. Doty vacated an arbitrator’s decision to uphold Peterson’s suspension for the remainder of the 2014 season, which was imposed by Goodell’s office after Peterson had pled no contest to child abuse charges in November 2014.
The National Football League Players Association had argued that the suspension, which came after Peterson had agreed to be placed on the so-called commissioner’s exempt list when he was charged by a Texas grand jury in September, retroactively applied a domestic abuse policy instituted after Peterson’s allegedly wrongful conduct in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
The three-judge Eight Circuit panel ruled that the district court had improperly vacated the arbitrator’s decision reversing Judge Doty’s decision and remanding the case with instruction to dismiss Peterson and the NFLPA’s petition.
Judge Doty vacated Henderson’s arbitration award and remanded the issue back to Goodell. But the NFL appealed to the Eighth Circuit, arguing Judge Doty had not given Henderson’s findings enough deference.
The three-judge panel included Circuit Judges James B. Loken, Diana E. Murphy, Steven M. Colloton.