The Patriots may not be willing to fight the NFL, but the NFLPA is. And Tuesday entailed skirmishes between management and labor on multiple fronts, including an aggressive claim that the NFL has acted in contempt of court by refusing to act of the order from Judge David Doty vacating the arbitration ruling in Adrian Peterson’s suspension.
The paperwork filed by the NFLPA, which has been posted online, presents three arguments in support of a finding that the NFL essentially showed up in court wearing a suit jacket not made out of some sort of cloth. Two of the contentions relate to Peterson. The third relates to the 10-game suspension imposed since Judge Doty’s ruling on Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy.
The union argues that the NFL disciplined Hardy under the new Personal Conduct Policy even though his behavior occurred when the prior Personal Conduct Policy was in effect. That’s precisely the type of outcome Judge Doty’s ruling in the Peterson case prohibits.
While the NFL has claimed that it applied the prior policy to Hardy, the NFLPA doesn’t believe it, comparing the punishment imposed against Hardy to the discipline imposed against first-time domestic violence offenders under the prior policy — two games. “Whether this was a good or a bad policy, it was the law of the shop,” the NFLPA writes. The union argues that the 10-game suspension represents the new Personal Conduct Policy’s baseline suspension of six games plus four additional games based on allegedly aggravating factors.
The NFLPA also points out that, while Hardy appeals his suspension, he’ll remain on the Commissioner-Exempt list. That’s another facet of the new Personal Conduct Policy; under the former policy, the player remained on normal status until the appeal was resolved.
The union’s 25-page brief also includes quotes from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash during an appearance last month on ESPN’s Outside The Lines. The union contends that Pash’s comments regarding Hardy’s suspension prove that the NFL is applying the new policy, even though the league insists it isn’t.
“The bottom line is that if the League cared at all about complying with the Court’s Order, it would have left no doubt that it was applying the Previous Policy to Mr. Hardy,” the NFLPA explains in the brief. “It didn’t. The only explanation for the ambiguity of the Hardy Discipline Letter is a disingenuous and futile attempt to disguise the League’s contempt for the Court’s essence-of-the-CBA ruling.”
Regardless of what Judge Doty does with this request (and the NFL should be at least a little nervous about it), it’s a brilliant strategy for forcing the issue on Hardy, who’s suspension currently is pending on appeal. Ultimately, the question is whether the league has given Judge Doty’s order the respect it deserves. Between dragging feet on the Peterson re-arbitration and allegedly punishing Hardy under the prior policy, maybe the NFL has indeed defied a federal judge.