As we wait for a decision from Peter Harvey in the Deshaun Watson appeal, it’s important to remember that this isn’t Harvey’s first NFL rodeo.
He has handled at least two prior arbitrations that resulted in a finding that was favorable to the NFL teams involved in the disputes.
In 2020, Harvey found that former Browns coach Hue Jackson’s arbitration claims against the team couldn’t proceed, because of the release he signed in order to secure his buyout after being fired during the 2018 season. Jackson claimed, among other things, that the Browns’ “4-year plan” incentivized tanking by tying bonuses for the coaches and front office to factors that cut against winning in the short term. Harvey never got to the merits of Jackson’s claims, because Harvey concluded that Jackson had agreed to waive any claims in order to receive ongoing compensation.
Before that, Harvey served as the arbitrator of the grievance filed by former Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan. He had sued the team after being fired for cause. The team said he was fired because of his alcohol use. McCloughan argued, among other things, that the team knew he was again using alcohol when he was hired, that alcohol use didn’t affect his job performance, and that the organization’s culture in many respects sprang from the use and abuse of alcohol.
Harvey would not keep being assigned these matters if he wasn’t giving the league the results it wanted. And it’s important for Harvey to maintain the relationship, since it’s a selling point in the recruitment of other clients.
Even though he’s not a league employee, Harvey is paid to provide services to the league. If he suddenly stops giving the league what it wants from him, the league will start finding someone else who will.
That’s simply how it goes, in many forms of business. Harvey may not be an employee of the league, but he’s beholden to it. Which means that the outcome of the Watson appeal will be exactly what the NFL wants it to be. If not, someone else will eventually become beholden to the league, instead of him.