NFL and players union spar in court over Peterson suspension

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 06, 2015 4:51 PM

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The National Football League and its players union argued in court on Friday over whether the child abuse-related suspension of the league's 2012 most valuable player Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings should be overturned.

U.S. District Judge David Doty heard both sides and will rule at a later date. "I feel like I got a fair hearing today," Peterson said outside the courthouse.

The NFL Players Association filed the lawsuit on behalf of Peterson, arguing that the league's suspension, handed down Nov. 18, should be reversed.

A Texas grand jury indicted Peterson last September on felony child abuse charges after he whipped his 4-year-old son with a switch, a thin tree branch with its leaves removed.

He was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, effectively a taking him off the field with pay, until his legal issues were settled. After pleading no contest to a lesser charge on Nov. 4, he was suspended by the NFL until at least April 15.

Peterson's suspension was upheld on Dec. 12 by arbitrator Harold Henderson, but the union feels Henderson, a former NFL executive hand-picked by Commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the case, was not impartial.

The union also feels that Peterson was unfairly disciplined by the NFL since the incident with his son occurred in May - before the league's new personal conduct policy was unveiled.

NFL attorneys asked Doty to reject the case, saying that it is a league matter and does not belong in court. Should Doty rule in favor of the NFL, Peterson could take the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Peterson, a six-time Pro Bowler, will be 30 years old next month and it is unclear whether the Vikings will want him back or have the eight-year NFL veteran hit the open market. Free agency begins March 10 in the NFL.

The NFL fined Peterson $4.1 million, or six weeks' pay, from his $11.75 million salary last season. His contract runs through the 2017 season, including $12.75 million for the upcoming campaign, but there is no guaranteed money remaining.

(Writing by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool)