The NFL Players Association, claiming that the arbitrator in the Adrian Peterson case acted unjustly and in opposition to the league’s collective bargaining agreement last Friday by upholding his suspension, has filed a lawsuit against the NFL.
The association asserts that in a phone call between NFL executive Troy Vincent and Peterson on November 12, Vincent promised Peterson that his suspension would last for two games if Peterson attended a November 14 meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and Peterson would be entitled to credit for his time on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Arbitrator Harold Henderson ruled in favor of the NFL, asserting that Vincent had not specified what Peterson’s punishment would be, and the NFLPA inaccurately claimed that the league punished Peterson for not attending the meeting. Peterson stated that he refused to attend the meeting because he was unsure about what the NFL’s intent was. On November 18, the NFL gave Peterson an indefinite suspension to last at least six games.
Henderson wrote, “Mr. Vincent testified that he never promised a two-game suspension or that the old policy would control, but rather encouraged Mr. Peterson to ‘go through the process and all things will be considered.’ He said, ‘I didn’t promise Adrian anything. Never promised. Adrian needed to show up. Talk.”’
Goodell defended Vincent, saying the executive had not spoken on behalf of the league, but simply wanted to help Peterson “put this issue behind him and get back to his life, his family, and football.”
ABC News published a partial transcript of the phone call between Vincent and Peterson. It read:
Peterson: ”It will be two additional games, not time served.”
Vincent: “No, no, no, no…it won’t…. The one this weekend. So really, it’s just next week and you…you…you…you will be back.”
Peterson: “Two games?”
Vincent: “Yeah, that is it…but you cannot…you got…you’ve got to act. You gotta just go through the process.”
Monday morning, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith blasted the NFL on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” program, alleging that “the audio tape is the tip of the iceberg” and the there had been “a manifest injustice not only to this player but also to the process. This is a part of something that is bigger than just Adrian Peterson, Troy Vincent, Ray Rice…this is another instance in which the National Football League will say anything on one day and do anything on another day to try to support a position that at this point is completely devoid of any rationality.” He added, “Adrian Peterson was punished for not appearing at a meeting that as a union member he had a right not to go to.”
Peterson said last Friday that Henderson was biased, telling ESPN, “It would have been nice to have an unbiased arbitrator, kind of like the Rice case, and not have anyone who has the NFL’s best interests in mind in that type of situation.” He said of the upcoming lawsuit, “Now I’ve got to sit back and go through this [lawsuit] process. Hopefully they’re not biased. I don’t see why it would be tough to rule against the arbitrator. If we would’ve had an unbiased arbitrator, it might have turned out different.”