Despite a stated desire to get it right, the NFL is getting it wrong, again.
On Thursday, the league advised Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that he won’t be permitted to return to the team in the wake of his no contest plea on misdemeanor assault charges. Two days after the plea agreement was finalized, the NFL has informed Peterson that his case will be reviewed under the personal conduct policy.
The review will include the submission of “relevant information regarding his case” by Peterson, meeting with “designated experts” who will make recommendations to Commissioner Roger Goodell, and an “opportunity to have a hearing prior to the issuance of any discipline.”
In other words, the NFL has crafted a cumbersome process that will legitimize further delay. And further delay necessarily operates as an extension of Peterson’s paid suspension. Even though his paid suspension commenced with the express understanding that it would end once his legal case is resolved.
While it’s entirely possible that the NFL, which apparently has refused lawyer Rusty Hardin’s plea for a meeting at which an agreement regarding Peterson’s status would be brokered, is buying time for a franchise that remains wobbly in the knees from the harsh local and national reaction to its decision to reinstate Peterson after an initial one-game deactivation, the end result will be that Peterson can’t play while the NFL figures out what to do.
Perhaps the NFL truly needs to devote time and effort to determining the appropriate penalty. In the interim, however, Peterson should be allowed to play if he wants to.
Players facing suspension under the substance abuse policy are allowed to play until all league proceedings are resolved. Players facing suspension for PEDs are allowed to play until all league proceedings are resolved. Why should the procedure be any different regarding conduct that occurred off the clock, away from the team facility, and in the privacy of Peterson’s home?
The procedure is different because it’s becoming clear the NFL and/or the team are scared to let him play. Which means that Peterson and the NFLPA should give them something to truly be afraid of — an immediate lawsuit with a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction forcing the NFL and the Vikings to allow Peterson to play until the league resolves his case under the personal conduct policy.
Could that inflame an already tenuous situation? Sure. But it’s clear that, if Peterson doesn’t push back, the NFL will do whatever it wants to do, as usual.