If you’ve never been inside a courtroom during a trial or a hearing, it’s a fascinating thing. Some may call it boring, but as a wide-eyed first timer yesterday at Adrian Peterson’s hearing with the U.S. District Court in downtown Minneapolis, I was on the edge of my seat.
Like a heavyweight boxing match, the tides of the conversation ebbed and flowed as each team plead their case. First it was Peterson’s team for 20 minutes laying out the ground work for the day. Then attorney Nash and the NFL took the stage for a 30 minute presentation on why there is no case. Ultimately, it was a 10 minute rebuttal for Mr. Kessler and the NFLPA to button up and loose ends.
Now let me start by saying that opinions can be dangerous things. You’ve heard the saying, “opinions are like backsides, everybody has one and most of them stink.” It’s kind of like that. But still, here is my opinion on how things played out yesterday and a suggestion to what I think is coming down the chute from the Honorable Judge David S. Doty.
Before I get much further, let me lay out each side of the case for you, to better help you understand the basis from where I am coming from.
NFLPA (Peterson represented by Jeffrey Kessler)
Argues that the discipline handed down to Mr. Peterson does not fit within the bounds of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Basically that the NFL has been making it up as they go the entire way, retroactively punishing Peterson for activities that happened before the new policy was announced.
Claims that the NFL does not have the jurisdiction to require players to attend treatment or counseling before returning to the field of play. Focused on paragraph 15 of the CBA which outlines that the league can ONLY punish a player with a fine, suspension or termination of contract.
Believes that by placing Peterson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List prior to any charges being filed, Peterson was in fact punished before being found guilty.
NFL (Goodell represented by Dan Nash)
Claims that the league acted under the belief that Peterson was being punished for conduct “detrimental to the league.”
Argued that Peterson’s punishment was within bounds because it was “more egregious” than prior domestic cases that received 2 game punishments.
Believes that no matter the decision stemming from this hearing, the court does not have the authority to force the league to reinstate Peterson immediately.
So there you have it, the nuts and bolts of yesterday’s hearing. Now time, for some of my observations.
The two sides had a very different approach. Kessler and the NFLPA came to bat with a much more passionate plea clearly outlining the pattern of bias misbehavior that has plagued the league throughout this case. From the misuse of the exempt list, to the enactment of the new domestic abuse policy to retroactive behavior, to the assignment of Harold Henderson (Goodell’s lackey) to serve as the independent arbitrator. With guns a blazing, Kessler took the stand and laid out a fascinating case for Peterson to be reinstated immediately.
On the other side of the table, Mr. Nash (NFL) was much more calculated and defensible. Referring back to the previous arbitration rulings, Nash was basically claiming that this hearing was a waste of time because all of the accusations of bias and overreaching were already considered by Mr. Henderson.
Throughout the thirty minute presentation by the NFL’s representation Judge Doty jumped in and questioned the direction two times asking whether the prior 2-game suspension claims can be substantiated and whether or not league executive Troy Vincent told Peterson he would receive the previous standard of 2 games. At this point in the conversation the NFL’s Senior Vice President Adolpho Birch scribbled something down on a note and passed it up to Nash on the stand. Birch’s note referenced the fact that under Vincent’s pretense with Adrian, Peterson was required to participate in full with the league, which he did not by skipping a hearing.
Maybe the kicker from the entire case came in the NFLPA’s 10 minute rebuttal period when Mr. Kessler pulled out an invitation from the league for the NFLPA to join them on December 16th for a conversation to amend the current CBA with the new domestic abuse policy. What’s peculiar about this, Peterson’s “retroactive” punishment came down the pipe from the league on the evening of December 12th, 2014. That’s four whole days after the league had already punished based on the pretense of the new policy. That’s not even to mention that Goodell announced the new policy for the first time on August 28th, months after the awful situation between Peterson and his 4-year old son took place.
I know the opinion of a journalist covering his first court-case may not hold a whole lot of clout for you, but from the inside of that court room yesterday, I did walk away with an opinion on how this could shake out. As Judge Doty exited the courtroom informing both sides that he will take their arguments “under advisement”, I was left with only one feeling. I believe, based on the evidence presented to the court Friday afternoon that the arbitration ruling will be thrown out and that sooner rather than later, Peterson will be reinstated to the league, not by the court but by the NFL under the pressures that this situation has brought to light.
At the end of the day, it would appear as if the NFL acted under pretenses that were not within the current bounds of the CBA. They attempted to employ a new policy that had no contractual grounds under the current agreement and in essence over stepped their bounds in an attempt to save face amidst a flurry of negative press that has plagued them over the past calendar year.
There’s no timetable for a decision to come from Judge Doty, but I fully expect it to be in favor of Peterson and the NFLPA. When (and if) this ruling comes, it presents another, maybe more pressing question. Do the Vikings, do the fans want Adrian Peterson back in Minnesota with the Vikings?
More on that coming this Monday to VikingsJournal.com...