With the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruling in favor of the NFL in connection with the discipline imposed in 2014 on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the league has now secured two major victories in cases involving player rights. As to both Peterson and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the plans of the NFL Players Association regarding further appeal are unclear.
“Our union pursues all claims because we believe in due process, fundamental fairness and in the spirit of collective bargaining agreements,” the NFLPA said in a statement issued Thursday. “While the NFLPA disagrees with the decision, we accept this loss. When negotiation or collective bargaining fails to resolve our differences, we will always fight and pursue every recourse for our players’ rights.”
The loss can be accepted and still challenged via the pursuit of “every recourse.” In Peterson’s case, a petition for a rehearing would be the first step. Ultimately, the union will be facing the same decision it currently faces as to Brady: Should the case be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court?
If the NFLPA had won in Peterson’s case, Brady’s chances of persuading the Supreme Court to take up his case would have been enhanced, due to the ensuing disagreement among two different federal circuits on the powers of the NFL under the same labor deal. Even with the league winning both cases and Brady having a wafer-thin chance of getting to the Supreme Court, it makes sense to try.
The union ultimately hopes to persuade the league to do what it agreed to do two years ago regarding the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy: Refer all internal appeals to neutral arbitration. From a bargaining standpoint, the league currently has more leverage because the court decisions have given the Commissioner more power. If that power can be undermined via a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court favorable to the players, it then becomes easier, in theory, to secure via negotiation neutral arbitration for appeals arising under the Personal Conduct Policy or punishment implemented for conduct detrimental to the league.
Brady, as PFT previously has reported, has authorized the union to appeal his case to the Supreme Court. Peterson surely would do the same with his. For now, the NFLPA hasn’t decided whether to do that. The commitment to “pursue every recourse” for player rights seems to suggest that, in both cases, the union will.