Adrian Peterson exited from a federal courtroom Friday afternoon claiming, “I got a fair hearing, for once.” The NFL Players Association is suing the National Football League in federal court on behalf of the Minnesota Vikings’ star halfback, pleading a judge to overrule the suspension handed down almost three months ago. The event that follows could affect not only Peterson, arguably one of the best running backs in NFL history, but also set a precedent for future NFL disciplinary cases.
“This case may be viewed by many as a stalking horse for other legal battles to follow between the players union and the league,” said Marshall Tanick, a Minneapolis lawyer who has previously represented athletes. “The stakes are huge for both sides.” Last September, a Texas grand jury found Peterson guilty of felony charges after he whipped his 4-year-old son with a switch.
Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List while his court cases played out. He pleaded no contest in
court on November 4, and following that he was suspended by the NFL until at least April 15. This is not the first time that Peterson has gone after the league with the backing of the NFLPA, however. Peterson and the NFLPA have twice tried to fight the NFL’s actions, and both attempts were unsuccessful. The first being in a union grievance over keeping Peterson on the exempt list, and the second in an appeal of the suspension.
This time Peterson is taking his case to the federal court, hoping that U.S. District Judge David Doty, who has handled many NFL cases, will side with the player’s union and order Peterson’s immediate reinstatement. The NFL claims that this case doesn’t belong in court and should be handled internally. The case has begun a hotly disputed argument over whether Peterson’s disciplinary process was fair and has called into question the authority of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFLPA have said that Goodell’s disciplinary actions yield too much to public opinion, making them “inconsistent” and “unlawful.” The league’s new year and free agency are just on the horizon, beginning March 10. While many questions remain unanswered, even more loom in the distant future. Rumors and whispers will now turn into very serious questions. Adrian Peterson has no time for those questions now however, as his mind, and the Vikings’ fans’ minds, are on his upcoming court dates.