Henderson rejects key Peterson argument without analysis or discussion
One of the primary arguments raised by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in connection with the appeal of his personal conduct policy suspension flowed from the reality that Peterson received no credit for the games he has missed while on the Commissioner-Exempt list. So how much of the nine-page ruling from hearing officer Harold Henderson, a copy of which PFT has obtained, was devoted to that argument?
“I reject the argument that placement in the Commissioner Exempt status is discipline,” Henderson writes under the portion of the ruling dubbed “Conclusion.” The term “conclusion” implies that the subject was addressed earlier in the document.
In this case, it wasn’t.
Sure, Peterson’s status on the Commissioner-Exempt list was mentioned. But nowhere in the ruling does Henderson analyze, discuss, or otherwise even address the question of whether placing a pro football player on leave with pay amounts to discipline. Instead, Henderson simply rejects the argument flatly, as if the contention borders on the frivolous.
It’s hardly frivolous. Football players want to play football. Keeping them from playing football constitutes discipline. Not giving them credit for the time missed while their legal cases are pending enhances the ultimate discipline imposed. Henderson’s failure to address the argument possibly makes the ruling even more susceptible to reversal by a federal court in Minnesota.
Speaking of a federal court in Minnesota, consider what Minnesota federal court Judge Paul A. Manguson had to say nearly six years ago to the day regarding the question of whether preventing former Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams from playing football amounted to the type of “irreparable harm” justifying a court order allowing them to play while the litigation challenging their suspensions proceeded.
“The players are certainly harmed by the impending suspensions,” Judge Manguson wrote. “As the NFLPA argues, a player who has been suspended under the [PED] Policy is ineligible for post-season awards such as the Pro-Bowl. Those honors carry significant economic and non-economic benefits. Moreover, at least some of the players are central to their team’s chances of making the playoffs. The failure to make the playoffs and the effect of that failure on the players, teams, and fans is not compensable monetarily and is therefore an irreparable harm.” (Emphasis supplied.)
While the suspension of Kevin and Pat Williams occurred without pay, a successful court challenge would have restored the lost wages. Nothing would have restored the ability to play in the games or reversed the competitive impact of not having the players available to play.
The same reasoning applies when a player is suspended with pay. Maybe Henderson didn’t address the merits of the issue not because the argument is so weak that it deserved no mention, but because the argument is so strong that no one can claim with a straight face that paying a player but not letting him play is perfectly fine.
Meanwhile, the NFL continues to say with a straight face that paying a player but not letting him play is perfectly fine. Which is perhaps the one facet of the new personal conduct policy that cries out the loudest for judicial intervention.