Harold Henderson isn’t a truly impartial arbitrator

Getty Images

Harold Henderson is an independent arbitrator. Unless he isn’t.

It’s an issue that has come up in the past, and with Henderson now appointed to handle the Ezekiel Elliott appeal it will come up again.

The NFL and NFLPA have disputed whether Henderson, a former NFL executive, is truly independent. While he isn’t a current league employee, he is routinely appointed by the league to handle hearings of this kind. The gig pays, it likely pays well, and he’d presumably hope to keep doing it.

As of November 2014, Henderson had handled 87 player appeals since 2008. Still, the union consistently has objected to Henderson’s appointment.

“A long-time NFL Executive and current legal consultant cannot, by definition, be a neutral arbitrator,” the union said in a statement released to PFT three years ago, in connection with the decision to appoint Henderson to handle Adrian Peterson‘s Personal Conduct Policy appeal.

Many (including some league employees) already are claiming that Henderson is independent by pointing out that he reduced Greg Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to four. But that was a grossly over-the-top penalty in light of the controlling precedent at the time — a two-game suspension for first-offense domestic violence. In coming up with 10 games, the league took Hardy’s interaction with Nicole Holder from a single evening and broke it down into four separate incidents: “First, he used physical force against her which caused her to land in a bathtub. Second, he used physical force against her which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles. Third, he used physical force against her by placing his hands around Ms. Holder’s neck and applying enough pressure to leave visible marks. And fourth, he used physical force to shove Ms. Holder against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.” (Obviously, these are despicable acts. But Hardy still has rights as it relates to efforts by his employer to punish him for things that happened away from the workplace.)

Though the statement announcing the Hardy suspension didn’t say it expressly, the league created the impression that the punishments were stacked based on the multiple incidents. Henderson ultimately decided to reduce the suspension to four games, without much of an explanation as to his reasoning. As PFT wrote at the time: “Henderson doesn’t know whether the NFL used the old policy (which produced a two-game suspension for first-offense domestic violence incidents) or the new policy (which moved the baseline to six), Henderson doesn’t think it matters to the resolution of Hardy’s case, and then Henderson relies on the new six-game baseline as proof that 10 games is too many, reducing it to a number below the new baseline.”

Based on existing precedent, Hardy arguably should have been suspended only two games, which was the standard penalty at the time. This time around, Henderson will be applying a policy with a standard penalty of six games. With Elliott being suspended exactly six games, it’s hard to imagine Henderson reducing it to three or four games — unless of course that’s what the NFL ultimately wants him to do.

Indeed, some believe that the league office won’t be all that upset with a reduction of the suspension, since the Commissioner obtained the appropriate P.R. cover by suspending Elliott six games. If Henderson or anyone else reduces it, no one can accuse the Commissioner or anyone employed by the league office of being soft on the issue of domestic violence.

Which, of course, overlooks entirely the question of whether Elliott actually committed domestic violence.

34 responses to “Harold Henderson isn’t a truly impartial arbitrator

  1. speicher145 says:
    August 16, 2017 at 12:29 pm
    How much you want to bet his suspension gets reduced to 4 games, and his first game back is against GB.

    0 0 Rate This

    ————

    How much do you want to bet that any games for someone not doing anything wrong (again), is seen as cheating and consumer fraud by people paying attention, which is illegal under US law?

  2. If Elliott prostrates himself, admits guilt and apologizes profusely he’ll have his suspension reduced to 4 games.

    If he challenges the league’s findings, he’ll stay at 6. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Of course he isn’t an impartial arbitrator. There’s plenty to question about the investigation, the credibility (or lack thereof) on both sides of the he said/she said and the league’s real motivations in all this but one that was never in doubt, there was absolutely no chance of a truly impartial arbitrator being appointed.

  4. So he is a contractor for the league. Which puts him on their payroll.

    Gee, which way could he possibbly lean?

    He’s a Goodell puppet. Roger is pulling the strings.

  5. Hey, the independent Wells report was co-created by Jeff Pash, who just happens to be the NFL’s lawyer.

  6. “Harold Henderson isn’t a truly impartial arbitrator’

    And no one was surprised by this.

    “Why didn’t Roger Goodell meet with Ezekiel Elliott and Tiffany Thompson face to face”

    Elliott they could certainly force a meeting with. Thompson they have no jurisdiction or ability to force her to meet with Goodell. Probably could have paid her off to do so, but even Goodell knows what an awful look that would have been.

  7. Why not show some stats on the 87 cases he has handled for the NFL? What % has he gone against the league vs. what % for the league? I believe that would illustrate things much more clearly than comments from agents.

  8. I have no dog in this fight, but if the allegations are true, blaming the victim in a domestic abuse case is really bad behavior. If that’s what’s going on in this case and it’s being done by Elliott, the NFL should consider adding more games to the suspension. Again, nobody knows the fact, but this is getting ugly.

  9. harrisonhits2 says:
    August 16, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Elliott they could certainly force a meeting with. Thompson they have no jurisdiction or ability to force her to meet with Goodell. Probably could have paid her off to do so, but even Goodell knows what an awful look that would have been.
    —————————

    She met with those 4 people that were selected to handle the investigation. Goodell could have certainly attended that meeting. But doing so would have jeopardized his plausible denial.

  10. The commish doesn’t work for the NFL fans or even the players. He’s responsible to the owners and no one else. The sooner homer fans and stupid players realize this the better off everyone will be.

  11. We can complain all we want but he is right. If the NFL appoints me, it is not inconceivable that the NFL is paying me. The NFL will not keep hiring me to rule against them. There is your conflict of interest

  12. In the broader perspective, know that the arbitrator is often chosen by the one who writes the contract. You could sue over that choice but it will likely be assigned to…. arbitration. Arbitration clauses are rotting out the core of civil justice.

  13. The only way the NFL reduces this is if Zeke admits it and bows before the almighty NFL. If he continues to insist he did nothing wrong the NFL will double down on stupid. I hope he keeps fighting it. There is little worse than being labeled a woman beater.

  14. If he reduced Hardy’s from 10 games to 4, Elliot will probably skate with 1 or 2 games at the most.

  15. If they do not like the way its run then quit
    The employees do not run the business even in this day and age

    I am sure what ever degree Zeke has will pay well

  16. As lifelong Cowboys fan, I have advice for Zeke Elliott that would probably get me in trouble with my fellow Cowboys fans: fight this to the very end. If the NFL insists on applying the “guilty until proven innocent” standard to this case since they can’t prove any wrongdoing, here’s what you do: RETIRE FROM THE NFL. Take the millions you’ve already collected, and go sign with a different football league. Canada, Arena, IFL… doesn’t matter. Just take your talents elsewhere.

    Once the NFL learns that players do indeed have options, and they CAN take money and fans with them and help to legitimize alternative leagues, they’ll learn how to properly handle these cases.

    And again, I say this as a Cowboys fan. This is bigger than the Cowboys, IMO. This is about corrupt mismanagement of the NFL, and it seems to only get worse and worse every year. It won’t stop until the players take matters into their own hands.

  17. Here’s an idea for players………… STOP BREAKING THE LAW! I’m tired of ppl complaining about how long the suspension is, your doing bad things, its not a good look for the NFL- they have every right to punish you any way they see fit. If you dont like it you have two options: #1 stop breaking the law, or #2 go into a new profession.

  18. Footballfanz says:
    August 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Here’s an idea for players………… STOP BREAKING THE LAW!
    ———————

    The problem isn’t the players, it’s the league office. If they could actually get their act together, and start operating with some fairness and integrity, we wouldn’t have all of these problems.

    Here we have a situation in which the NFL said that they felt like Tiffany Thompson was more credible that Ezekiel Elliott, when all of the available evidence points to her having absolutely no credibility whatsoever. How does a player deal with something so ludicrous?

  19. XaqFields says:
    August 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    As lifelong Cowboys fan, I have advice for Zeke Elliott that would probably get me in trouble with my fellow Cowboys fans: fight this to the very end. If the NFL insists on applying the “guilty until proven innocent” standard to this case since they can’t prove any wrongdoing, here’s what you do: RETIRE FROM THE NFL. Take the millions you’ve already collected, and go sign with a different football league. Canada, Arena, IFL… doesn’t matter. Just take your talents elsewhere.
    ————————

    No NFL player is going to do any of that.

  20. ubb44 says:
    August 16, 2017 at 1:01 pm
    The commish doesn’t work for the NFL fans or even the players. He’s responsible to the owners and no one else. The sooner homer fans and stupid players realize this the better off everyone will be.


    No. The commissioner is responsible for the well being of the league. Not to take sides for the owners.

    Fire Goodell and get someone in here that will do the job of NFL commissioner.

  21. Footballfanz,

    Thats why we have a judicial system in America. From the evidence that has been put out by the police, nfl and nflpa, it seems she is the lawbreaker. Last tome I checked, EXTORTION is a crime. Asking someone to lie to police for you is a crime. I dont know and you dont know if he put his hands on her but i do know that she is not credible. Calling zeke 50 times in a 7 hour period doesnt sound like a person who is afraid. Texting friends and telling them that she is going to ruin his life sounds bitter, if anyone has evidence he put hands on her, suspend him for 6 games. The police said she was so inconsitent with her story that they did not believe her, but roger im smarter than professional investigator godell believed her over him while knowing about all these lies

  22. Prime example of the media’s selective outrage…since its sports related lets get this thing thrown out, she’s guilty. If this happened to any other public figure they would be called racist women beaters and most likely would have hordes of protesters outside of their homes and places of employment. The calls for his firing and prosecution would rage on without a note of evidence needed. Just open your eyes marionettes!

  23. No dog in this fight, but his suspension should be reduced to 3 games or less based on conduct detrimental to the league at worst. There’s a legal battle brewing from one of the most influential owners/teams in the league as well as the Player’s Association. The NFL is becoming harder and harder to follow.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!