Federal Judge David Doty sided with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) on Feb. 26 and overturned Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's suspension. Doty says an arbitrator improperly applied a new disciplinary policy retroactively to Peterson. The NFL will appeal the ruling, per multiple reports.
A federal judge has overturned Adrian Peterson's suspension.
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According to a Feb. 26 update from The Minnesota Star Tribune's Rochelle Olson, "A federal judge sided with the National Footblal League Players Association on Thursday, saying the league's arbitrator improperly applied a new disciplinary policy retroactively to the Minnesota Vikings' star running back." The concerned arbitrator is Harold Henderson.
As for the NFL, it placed Peterson on its Commisioner's Exempt List and told Olson it would appeal Judge David Doty's ruling on Thursday with the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN on Thursday that players on the exempt list can be traded or released. Their contracts can also be re-structured. Any of these can be done before the league year begins on March 10.
The Vikings released a statement on their official website on Feb. 26:
"Adrian 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. 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 time."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Peterson for at least the rest of the 2014 NFL season last December. When Henderson upheld Goodell's verdict, the NFLPA stepped in and filed a federal lawsuit, per Olson.
Olson goes on to say that Doty felt Goodell's application of the enhanced personal-conduct policy in the aftermath of the Ray Rice case was too harsh. The judge wrote,"It is undisputed that under the previous policy, first-time offenders faced a likely maximum suspension of two games."
Peterson allegedly disciplined his four-year-old son with a switch (a tree branch) in Texas in May 2014. A Montgomery, Texas grand jury indicted him four months later on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, per ESPN.
This occurred just several days after Goodell suspended Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' former running back, a second time for allegedly assaulting his wife in a New Jersey casino elevator in Feb. 2014, per Olson.
Peterson then pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge two months after he was indicted by the Texas grand jury. Olson says Goodell then stepped in and suspended the Vikings' star running back. The commissioner also issued a six-game fine on Peterson and ordered him to receive counseling.
The Minnesota Star Tribune report quoted NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith as saying the ruling as "a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness."
Since the enhanced personal-conduct policy of suspending a player involved in a domestic violence case for six games after Peterson's son sustained his injuries, the NFLPA claims the prior standard of a two-game suspension should have been applied instead, per ESPN.
Smith touches on this matter when he told ESPN that "our 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." He added,"This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game."
Olson obtained a response from the NFL which reads,"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 arbitration decisions."
Olson stresses on the uncertainty of Peterson's return to Minnesota since his indictment almost six months ago. Peterson didn't return Olson's phone calls on Thursday.
Peterson, who has a base salary of $12.75 million next season, is still under contract with the Vikings. Minnesota GM Rick Spielman told ESPN he expects him to return in 2015.
However, Peterson told ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter Ben Goessling on Feb. 20 that he is still "uneasy" about returning to the organization:
"I'm still uneasy, to be honest with you. I'm still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization. Of course those guys ultimately supported me, and I'm grateful for that. But ultimately, with me being able to be on the outside and see how cards were dealt, how things were worded, this, that and the other, it's about protecting your brand, your organization, what you have built. In the (grand) scheme of things, not one person counts over that. I get that."
Peterson has amassed 10,190 rushing yards and 86 touchdowns on 2,054 carries in 104 career regular-season games for the Minnesota Vikings, per ESPN stats.
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