NFL’s Adrian Peterson Suspension for Alleged Child Abuse Upheld

The Eighth Circuit has affirmed an arbitrator’s decision to uphold the NFL’s suspension of Adrian Peterson. Peterson, a running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was suspended for the remainder of the 2014 season amid allegations that he had abused his child.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed the suspension, citing a violation the league’s personal conduct policy when Peterson beat his son with a wooden switch, which was later affirmed by an arbitrator. In February 2015, U.S. District Judge David Doty vacated the arbitrator’s decision. On August 4, 2016, a three-panel hearing by the Eighth Circuit Court found that the district court improperly vacated the arbitrator’s decision, thus dismissing the petitions of Peterson and the National Football League Players Association.

The Eighth Circuit Court unanimously found that courts have a limited role in reviewing arbitrator decisions under the Labor Management Relations Act. Judge Doty found support for upending the arbitrator’s decision by referring to the law of shop that had been set under the overturning of Ray Rice’s suspension. The Vikings appealed the decision, noting that the arbitrator had found that the NFLPA approved a collective-bargaining agreement that gives Commissioner Goodell the disciplinary authority in certain cases.

The Eighth Circuit, however, found that the arbitrator distinguished the two cases, saying that where an “arbitrator at least arguably acts within the scope of the issues submitted to him… his decision must be upheld.” Thus, the Eighth Circuit found in favor of the arbitrator, ordering the complaint to be dismissed.

Although the decision does not affect Peterson’s playing status moving forward, it does affirm the NFL’s sanctions, including a fine of over $2 million. Moving forward, Peterson could appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court en banc or up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The NFLPA released the following statement on the decision:

While the NFLPA disagrees with the decision, we accept this loss. When negotiation or collective bargaining fails to resolve our differences, we will always fight and pursue every recourse for our players’ rights.

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