Legal fights looming over Gordon suspension

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With the Browns suspending receiver Josh Gordon for the final game of the 2014 regular season, a fight is now looming over whether Gordon will be an unrestricted free agent or a restricted free agent following the 2015 season.

Acquired by the Browns via the 2012 supplemental draft, Gordon currently is completing his third NFL season.  But because (per a league source) the Browns have decided to suspend Gordon without pay for Sunday’s game against the Ravens, the NFL is now expected to take the position that Gordon has not gained a third “accrued season” for the purposes of becoming a free agent.

The league will contend that Gordon did not acquire a third accrued season (he needs four to become an unrestricted free agent) because the league believes that a player obtains an accrued season for each season in which he spends six games on the Active List or Inactive List or on Reserve/Injured or Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform.

Article 8(1)(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, provides a different definition: “For the purposes of calculating Accrued Seasons under this Agreement, a player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games, but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (iii) a Club’s Practice Squad.”

The first legal fight will focus on whether a suspension without pay was justified. If the player wins round one, round two becomes irrelevant; if it’s determined he should have been paid for Week 17, Gordon will have been on full pay status for six games.

The second round, if there is one, will center on the meaning of the phrase “during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games.” When combined with three specific types of categories that do not count toward the six-game minimum, the phrase “should have been on . . . full pay status” seems to include, based on its common-sense meaning, players who aren’t on full-pay status for reasons such as a team-imposed suspension or a league-imposed suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy.

The phrase “should have been on” has meaning, or it wouldn’t have been included. Without the phrase “should have been on,” it would be an easy decision; Gordon wasn’t on “full pay status” for six or more regular-season games.

The NFL will offer, at the appropriate time, an interpretation of the phrase that excludes players who are suspended by the team or the league. The NFLPA will tender an interpretation rooted in the common-sense application of the phrase and the listing of three types of exempt categories other than a player on suspension by the team or suspension by the league for violating the substance-abuse policy.

If the suspension without pay is upheld, at some point an interpretation of Article 8(1)(a) will be needed. The plain language suggests that the NFLPA and Gordon should prevail.

50 responses to “Legal fights looming over Gordon suspension

  1. This suspension has nothing to do with all the legal crap. It’s all about sending a message to the team. Suspend a star player for not following the rules. The Management couldn’t care less who wins the appeal…

  2. sdbolts says:
    Dec 27, 2014 9:54 PM
    I wonder if NFLPA ever gets tired of having to defend drug users, wife beaters, child abusers, drunk drivers, etc.


    Truthfully… Unions spend 90% of their time defending the lowest level of employee. This is true for ANY union. Even my own.

    For every 1 improper action a union fights…there are 15 DUIs, drug charges, etc. that they fight to keep on the job.

    It’s not like they have a choice though.

  3. This is all about the browns buying more time for themselves to see if they can give him a big contract or if he’s beyond repair. This buys them another year. They know if they cut him loose some other team could benefit.

    They found a loophole and they exploited it. It’s that simple.

    I would fight it too if I was him.

  4. Yeah, the “common sense” meaning of “should have been on” doesn’t include “games the player should start if they weren’t acting like a moron”

  5. Just another moron that doesn’t get it. I’m sure by Monday you will have found a way to blame this on Goodell.

  6. My Dad was in Union working for a big company in Wheatfield NY, he never did anything wrong & worked hard yet the employer changed his job title rendering him unemployed. The boss’s son took over everything my Dad did & got his higher paying job.

    Moral of the story is a union will end up letting the people down because it’s ran by simple people, not the owners who change the rules as needed.

  7. Leave it to the Browns to screw up something so simple.

    It’s clear Gordon should be a free agent. The story above explains it, in simple language that even the average NFL fan could understand.

    All the Browns get out of this is (a) irritating their star WR, guaranteeing he won’t come back as soon as he is freed and (b) ensuring that fewer free agents will want to sign in Cleveland, because who wants to play for a team that screws over its players?

    They’ll be stuck overpaying has-beens to fill spots, rather than competing for a few key missing pieces that can push them over the top.

    So the Browns get no real benefit, piss off their best player, anger many current players, give free agents a reason to sign anywhere else, and take a net loss financially. In other words…business as usual for the Browns.

  8. Memo to Gordon’s agent:
    Get your client out of that dumpster of a franchise!
    His morale is low and he’s wasting away there. I know this player will blow up on a competitive team with solid coaching and ownership, but you need to spring him first because it’s not going to happen in his current situation,

  9. Hmmm, I find it hard to believe he won’t win it. There always exists the possibility of a team knowing this rule and using it to their advantage, which should not be allowed. That said, this guy seriously needs to figure it out, I thought he had a heavy suspension, but now I fully believe he deserved it.

  10. Interesting that the Browns were in the playoff hunt during his early season suspension, and when he came back their passing game and their playoff hopes fell apart. Maybe he’s not as valuable to the team as he believes?

  11. This appeal could get very interesting.

    If Gordon appeals the team-imposed suspension, I think that would be considered a non-injury grievance. When a player appeals in a non-injury grievance case, CBA Articles 42 and 43 require the appeal to be heard by an arbitrator agreed upon by both the League and the NFLPA. Unlike the Adrian Peterson case, the Commissioner cannot unilaterally pick an arbitrator with close ties to the League.

    In other words, the decision-maker will not be a “homer.” This is probably not good news from the Browns. Recall what happened when an arbitrator with no ties to the League decided the Ray Rice matter.

  12. Any team dumb enough to sign this guy for anything but a performance laden and money based on him staying out of trouble is crazy.

    He is a joke. And the union is a joke to defend these guys. Work for the 99.9% of the players who are living right.

  13. The Browns should get rid of Gordon as soon into the future as they can. This guy has a heavy load of baggage every season. It may be time to fish or cut bait with this player.

  14. Im guessing many of the posters whining about the treatment of Gordon probably have never worked a day in their life yet. All Gordon had to do was show up for his job that he is being paid for and there would be no issue, quite simple. Yet the moron brings it on himself and Cleveland is somehow to blame?

  15. Browns fan and I think we should trade Gordon. I don’t think he can stay straight in the off-season and he hasn’t bothered to learn the playbook this season. Seriously, he will either get suspended or leave the team in 2 years, so why not get some value from him now?

  16. Doesn’t matter…he doesn’t get it and will probably screw up again and be out of the league in a year or less. How do you have 12 weeks off and not know the playbook? Especially after bragging about how he was going to tear up the league upon his return. Talented guy, hope he wakes up really soon.

  17. dudes an idiot. couldn’t hack it in college went to supplemental draft, been suspended more games than he’s played in nfl. all the talent in the world can’t help a moron from continuing to be another head case whose jock strap is smarter then he is personally. being on cleveland doesn’t help much either, their front office and team culture has been junk for 20 plus years. a change in ownership would generate some genuine hope.

  18. I am so sick of seeing this little puke escape the consequences of his terrible decisions on a technicality, again and again and again.

    Skipping practise might not be a big deal – if you actually have a quarterback you’ve played with before. When it’s a guy off the practise squad, then it matters. It matters a lot.

  19. Browns will lose the battle as usual because Goodell is buddies with rival owners Rooney’s & Biscootti, they have Goodell in their pocket & get what they want!

  20. Well, if I remember correctly the longest a team can suspend a player is 4 games for “conduct detrimental to teh team”. So a player would already need to be suspended for 8 games then do something else to get that 4 game suspension for teams to use this loophole. While it certainly is an underhanded trick, I think it buys the Browns time to trade him. Now he won’t be eligible for a new contract until 2016 at the earliest, as opposed to this year. So there is no worry about any kind of holdout. The new team that acquires him would have at least one year of low paid play. Still, wouldn’t expect much in return for him, 4th or 5th rounder. But a team like NYJ or Carolina or even Oakland could really take a shot on him.

  21. Is it just me or is everyone else tired of hearing about players basically taking the NFL/teams to “court”?

    If players would just do their job (ie play football), none of this stupidity would be necessary!

  22. As a Browns fan. it doesn’t matter if Gordon gets his 2015 restricted or unrestricted status, because he can be franchised. The Browns do not have an agenda, they just want knuckleheads like JG, Johnny, and Justin Gilbert to remove their heads from their behinds, and be the best players they can be, period. Gordon has not looked like the same player from last year.

  23. If this is anything other than the team sending a message, making an example of him, and trying to change the culture of the franchise, then shame on the Browns for trying to manipulate a rule to their advantage!!! We may never know the truth but a decision will be made that all will have to live with.

  24. Wasted talent… trade him while there is some value to him. Maybe he can get his act together… and I will cheer for him.

    Please take Manizel with you… that is my New Year prayer…

    Oh, and the front office morons who made the decision to make a quarterback change…

  25. This goes to show how classless Browns organization is. Obvious fact is Browns are trying to keep him for another year by improperly suspending him. No wonder they are always at bottom of the barrel.

  26. I didn’t think Gordon even had enough time to be in the union……I forgot as long as they pay their union dues they are a member in good standing…….not with the team or the league or the rest of the universe but they are with the union.

    Gotta love the union…..defend the stupid

  27. sdbolts, how dare you lump “drug users”, especially in regards to pot, in with violent victimizers. I wonder if you ever get tired spouting what you’re told to do.

  28. The absolute perfect story to define the modern professional athlete.

    Athlete comes off 10 game suspension. Athlete swears he will never get into trouble again. On the eve of the game which will earn him his free agency, athlete chooses to stay out all night at a party and miss practice. No practice, no game, no free agency.

    Couldn’t happen to a better guy. At least we won’t have to worry about how he will support himself after football. We’ll be supporting with 3 square meals a day and a warm cell.

  29. Gordon wasn’t the only player tardy for work. The comments of the goody two shoes has gotten so old here. Folks talk like they’ve had a life where they never once made a mistake. Thank goodness for the NFLPA to come to Gordon’s defense!

  30. liquidmuse says:
    Dec 28, 2014 11:01 AM
    sdbolts, how dare you lump “drug users”, especially in regards to pot, in with violent victimizers. I wonder if you ever get tired spouting what you’re told to do.

    If a guy is making millions of dollars and gets suspended for 10 games for substance abuse, and then immediately upon his return reverts back to his old ways, it is apparent he hasn’t learned a thing. And then he relies on his union to save his job. What about all the good guys in the league and union who go about their jobs, and play by the rules?

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