Packers’ Defensive Lineman Drops Suit Flagging NFL, NFLPA for ‘Illegal Formation’

A Green Bay Packers defensive lineman has dropped a lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Players Association on Monday, December 19, 2016. Mike Pennel, the third-year nose tackle from CSU-Pueblo, was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Pennel intended to appeal the league’s finding, contained in a November 8 letter, at a hearing set for December 6. Before that hearing took place, however, Pennel filed suit in the Federal Northern District Court of Ohio on November 29.

The substance of Pennel’s argument focused not on the facts of his alleged violation, but, rather, on the process the NFL attempted to provide Pennel for hearing his appeal. According to the complaint, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to provide at least three, but no more than five, hearing officers for a disciplinary appeal. Pennel alleges that, in his case, the NFL only provided two officers. Further, the NFL emailed Pennel’s attorneys claiming that “only two [hearing officers] are necessary and available.” As a result, Pennel sought a court order delaying his appeal until a third hearing officer could be appointed to the case.

The NFL and NFLPA have been subject to a similar suit from Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson. In that case, Johnson tested positive for a banned substance he claims was contained in a contaminated vitamin supplement. Specifically, Johnson contends that the performance-enhancing substances policy does not provide any rights or notions of due process to players. Johnson was suspended for ten games when he tested positive for taking a supplement that Johnson claims was approved by the league, but nevertheless tested positive for a banned substance. He subsequently filed a complaint against the NFL and NFLPA before the Department of Labor’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Pennel, like Johnson, was also a repeat-offender, testing positive for another banned substance in February.

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