As the NFL owners' meeting got underway, the player's union fired a shot across the bow of the league and Roger Goodell. The NFLPA has filed a motion to have the NFL and the commissioner held in contempt for failing to comply with the ruling by Judge David Doty in the Adrian Peterson case.
On February 26th, the NFL was ordered to change their decision in the Peterson matter and reissue a ruling consistent with our collective bargaining agreement. The Union made multiple requests to the League office asking the arbitrator, who serves at the direction of the Commissioner, to comply with the law and avoid further litigation. Despite our attempts, they have done nothing and leave us no choice but to seek this motion.
The point of contention is the direction Judge Doty gave that the league had to re-accomplish their own hearing process in the Peterson domestic violence case.
The ruling sends the case back for further proceedings consistent with the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. (Emphasis added.)
One of the biggest issues about the way Goodell has handled cases like Peterson's and the suspension of Greg Hardy is the complaint that he has paid no attention to the provisions of the CBA. His decisions since the Ray Rice fiasco have been seen as arbitrary and based more on public relations and the reactions of media and fans of the league. Despite the findings of Judge Doty, the league has taken no action to comply.
This is no idle threat. If Goodell is indeed found in contempt, he can be compelled to appear before Judge Doty and could be jailed for failure to comply with the ruling. Clearly, if this is the standard the league is going to be held to in the Peterson matter, it will also be applicable on the Hardy suspension.
Obviously this is of considerable interest to the Dallas Cowboys as they wait for Goodell to get to the Hardy appeal. It will force the league to set a precedent for that appeal, and they will either have to be consistent in Hardy's case or know that they will likely have to go through having their decision challenged and likely overturned again. The Cowboys do not have to do anything in this battle, because this is between the NFLPA and the commissioner. So far, the NFLPA has been winning all of these battles, primarily because of the almost total disregard the league has had for the provisions of the CBA. That agreement exists to govern the relationship between the owners and the players. The current CBA is arguably favorable to the league overall. Simply ignoring the protections for the players that the NFLPA did manage to get included just angers the union and its members. The NFL got the decade or so of stability it wanted with this agreement, but based on the almost constant friction over the way Goodell is administering discipline, the next negotiation is going to be contentious, and the NFLPA is going to be very hesitant to make any concessions that look at all like backing down.
In the short term, this just puts pressure on the league to reduce Hardy's suspension. Like Peterson, Hardy's transgressions happened before the new domestic violence policy was put into effect. And even though the league has tried to finesse things by citing "conduct detrimental to the league", there is no precedent for the ten game suspension they levied on Hardy. It has the appearance of being a very harsh punishment designed to show how tough the league is on players involved in domestic violence with no basis for its severity in the CBA. Although the accusations against him are severe, the suspension was clearly driven by the new policy, not matter what the league maintains. And the new policy was established to quiet the public outcry, without reference to the CBA.
The league acted hastily and in a bit of panic when the furor erupted over the Ray Rice video. The mistakes continue, and so far there is no indication that the top executives, including Goodell, have learned anything. We will see if anything is sinking in yet.