Immediately after news emerged of the Greg Hardy suspension emerged, PFT reported that Hardy will appeal the 10-game banishment. The NFLPA has another plan in mind, too.
According to Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the union is considering filing a lawsuit on Hardy’s behalf. Given the preliminary success of the lawsuit filed last year by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after his suspension, it’s no surprise.
Peterson’s victory arose from the league’s effort to apply the new personal conduct policy to behavior that occurred before the rule changed. In Hardy’s case, the NFL has tried to avoid that argument by claiming Hardy’s suspension arises under the prior policy and procedure.
Commissioner Roger Goodell could take plenty of steam out of a Hardy lawsuit by appointing a neutral arbitrator to handle the in-house appeal. While he’s usually disinclined to surrender the power to designate a hearing officer, Goodell could be tempted to consider stepping aside, given the decision issued by a neutral arbitrator in the Ray Rice appeal last November. Despite overturning Rice’s indefinite suspension because it amounted to a second punishment, Judge Barbara Jones concluded that an indefinite suspension would have been justified as an initial punishment under the league’s prior approach to domestic violence cases.
With the NFL carefully pointing out in Hardy’s case that the new standard for domestic violence cases isn’t being applied retroactively to Hardy (even if it is), there’s a chance an arbitrator will endorse the 10-game suspension as something that would have been imposed absent the seismic shift that occurred after the Rice video emerged the day after the first Sunday of the 2014 regular season.
As noted by Hill, the NFLPA also could argue that the league improperly divided one incident into four specific actions, with discipline imposed separately for the various portions of one overall violation.
Regardless of how and where and when it plays out, the NFLPA is confident that a string of legal victories in the bounty scandal, the Rice case, and the Peterson case will extend to Hardy. Not that the NFL cares; as noted Thursday, the league seems to be much more concerned about avoiding the P.R. fallout of not going far enough than the courthouse consequences of going too far.