U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Adrian Peterson Suspension Case: NFL Players Assoc Submits Briefs

The NFL Players Association has submitted its briefs to the Eight Circuit regarding the overturned suspension of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson was suspended by the NFL after he was accused of physically abusing his son. A district court reversed that suspension, finding that the NFL's domestic abuse policy was new and couldn't be retroactively applied to actions Peterson took in the past.

The NFL's appeal of that ruling is now currently pending in the Eight Circuit. In their filings, the Players Association -- essentially a union for NFL athletes -- argues, unsurprisingly, that the district court was correct in throwing out Peterson's suspension.

The NFL Gets Tough on Domestic Violence -- But Too Late

Last September, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges in Texas, following an investigation into injuries suffered by his four year old son. Peterson admitted to "whooping" his son with a switch and a wooden spoon -- leaving cuts and bruises on the child's back, buttocks, legs, ankles and scrotum.

The charges came not long after video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee and dragging her unconscious body out of a hotel elevator. The incident lead to claims that the NFL turned a blind eye to domestic violence -- claims substantiated by an internal investigation into the league. Many commentators saw Peterson's suspension as an attempt to show that the NFL was now taking such incidents more seriously.

The District Court's Decision

Peterson sued over his suspension, arguing that it violated the players' collective bargaining agreement by applying a new policy retroactively. After Peterson's alleged abuse came out, the NFL announced that it was strengthening its domestic violence policy and instituting a six-game suspension penalty. Peterson was suspended for six weeks, but the NFL had argued it did so under its existing policy and had not created anything new at all -- it had simply reinforced policies players already had notice of.

That didn't convince the district court. The fact that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had announced that the league had changed its policy also didn't support their position that nothing was different.

In their filings, the Players Association argues that the district court got it right -- they describe the court's ruling as "unassailably correct" and a prior arbitration upholding Peterson's suspension as lacking "the hallmarks of an honest judgment."

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