So what happens if/when hearing officer and NFL executive V.P. of labor relations Harold Henderson decides to apply the substance-abuse policy as written and suspend Browns receiver Josh Gordon? Good question.
Litigation is possible, but it’s not easy to persuade a court to ignore the results of an arbitration process. Only in rare cases will a judge ignore the outcome of a private dispute-resolution process, since private dispute-resolution processes lighten the loads for judges throughout the country.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the possibility of suing over a Josh Gordon suspension hasn’t been discussed yet.
In recent years, players haven’t fared well when it comes to fighting the outcome of an arbitration that resolves a dispute over application of the substance-abuse policy or the PED policy. Two years ago, the NFLPA challenged in court Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the player suspensions arising from the bounty scandal, ultimately prompting him to choose to defer the appeals to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who overturned all punishments.
The substance-abuse policy, with its steps and stages and formulas, entails a much narrower band of discretion. Which will make it harder to fashion a legal argument that would overcome the suspension. While it’s possible that a StarCaps-style attack could delay the suspension, it becomes very difficult to overturn the strict, literal application of a collectively-bargained policy regarding the use of marijuana and other street drugs.