this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Minnesota Vikings running
back Adrian Peterson leaves the courthouse with his wife
Ashley Brown Peterson in Conroe, Texas. A federal judge has
cleared the way for Peterson to be reinstated. U.S. District
Judge David Doty issued his order Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015,
less than three weeks after hearing oral arguments.
In NFL limbo for
the last five-plus months, Adrian Peterson's future with the
Minnesota Vikings is still in question.
The path toward
resolution of his status has been cleared. The league-union clash
over the personal conduct policy, though, has only cranked up.
Roger Goodell and the NFL were handed a second high-profile legal
defeat Thursday, when U.S. District Judge David Doty overruled
league arbitrator Harold Henderson's December denial of the
six-time Pro Bowl running back's appeal.
Doty ruled that
Henderson "failed to meet his duty" in considering
Peterson's punishment, for the child abuse charge that brought
national backlash for the league on the heels of the bungled
handling of the assault case involving former Baltimore Ravens
running back Ray Rice.
Doty said the
league cannot retroactively apply the standards of its new,
tougher personal conduct policy to an action by Peterson that
occurred before the policy was in place. The league suspended
Peterson through at least April 15 under the new standard that
arose from the furor over the handling of the assault involving
Rice. But Doty said in his 16-page ruling that Henderson
"simply disregarded the law of the shop and in doing so
failed to meet his duty" under the collective bargaining
Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement
Doty's decision was a "victory for the rule of law, due
process and fairness."
The injuries to
Peterson's son, delivered by a wooden switch that Peterson was
using for discipline, occurred more than three months before
Goodell's announcement of the increase in suspension time from two
games to six games for players involved in domestic violence.
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," Smith
said. "This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is
good for our players, good for the owners and good for our
The NFL promptly
filed its protest to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The league
also returned Peterson to the exempt list he spent two months on
last season pending completion of the process. The NFL also said
further arbitration proceedings in front of Henderson could be
held before an appeal is heard by the 8th Circuit.
Doty's order did not contain any determinations concerning the
fairness of the appeals process under the CBA, including the
commissioner's longstanding authority to appoint a designee to act
as hearing officer," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
"Even so, we believe strongly that Judge Doty's order is
incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal
precedent governing the district court's role in reviewing
chimed in a little later with moral support of Peterson, whom they
have heaped praise on in recent weeks in obvious attempt to either
welcome him back or enhance his trade value.
Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our
focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our
organization," the Vikings said. "Today's ruling leaves
Adrian's status under the control of the NFL, the NFLPA and the
legal system, and we will have no further comment at this
to the exempt list was just as critical of a development in this
saga as was Doty's ruling. Being on the exempt list means the
Vikings can now have direct contact with Peterson, which they
couldn't while the suspension was in effect. Also, when the market
opens March 10, they'd be allowed to trade him if they wanted.
They could release him or try to restructure his contract at any
unavailable for comment. His agent, Ben Dogra of Relativity
Sports, said he was pleased Doty "recognized the merits"
of Peterson's case.
"This is an
important moment for Adrian, players' rights and the NFLPA. Adrian
is an exceptional community member, father, husband and athlete
who will continue to contribute meaningfully on and off the
field," Dogra said in a statement sent to The Associated
Press. "Any NFL team will be fortunate to have Adrian on its
roster as he will consistently serve as a strong leader and
existing deal is through 2017, carrying a $15.4 million salary cap
hit for 2015. If the Vikings cut him, they'd owe him no more money
and take only a $2.4 million hit to their salary cap. Peterson has
no contractual leverage, but he has expressed uneasiness about
returning to the only team he's ever played for. He told ESPN in a
recent interview that he felt betrayed by some members of the
organization during the process in which Goodell placed him on the
exempt list, essentially paid leave, while the child-abuse case
played out in court in Texas.
has long been a ground zero of sorts for NFL labor matters, and
his ruling pattern has favored the union more often than not.
Still, his latest
rebuke of the NFL came as a surprise because it defied a
collectively bargained arbitration process.
doubt that generally speaking judges don't like to overturn
decisions of arbitrators," said Thomas Wassel, a labor and
employment attorney and partner at Cullen and Dykman in New York.
"That's a general principle in all of labor law."