Adrian Peterson was suspended today for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season without pay, and there is an appeal process. The problem is according to the CBA, Roger Goodell will have the final say in the process.
In the letter to Peterson, Goodell wrote:
“The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision,” Goodell wrote. “Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”
Goodell outlined a series of mitigating circumstances surrounding Peterson’s punishment, including the presence of a child, the use of a switch and his lack of “meaningful remorse.”
“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child,” Goodell wrote. “While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
Additionally, Goodell noted that the injuries suffered by Peterson’s son as well as Peterson’s claims that he would continue to punish his children were a concern for the league.
“Your plea agreement in Texas, and the related violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, arise out of abusive injuries that you inflicted on your son earlier this year,” Goodell wrote. “Based on public reports of your statements and photographs that were made public at the time of the indictment, you used a ‘switch’ — a flexible tree branch — to punish your son, striking him in the ankles, limbs, back, buttocks, and genitals, leaving visible swelling, marks, and cuts on his body and risking severe and long-term damage. The visible injuries were such that a local pediatrician in Minnesota, upon examining your son, felt obligated to make a child abuse report to the police. According to contemporaneous media reports, police and medical examiners termed the cuts as ‘extensive’ and as ‘clinically diagnostic of child physical abuse.’
“Based on the severity of those injuries, a grand jury made up of citizens of Montgomery County, Texas, voted to indict you on a felony charge, reflecting their belief that there was reasonable cause to conclude that you had overstepped the bounds of acceptable corporal punishment and engaged in physical abuse of your child. Moreover, it appears that this is not the first time that you have punished children in this way. Public statements attributed to you indicate that you believe that this kind of discipline is appropriate and that you do not intend to stop disciplining your children this way.”
Peterson was encouraged by Goodell in the letter to undergo counseling and informed the running back he will “establish periodic reviews” of his progress.
“The well-being of your children is of paramount concern,” Goodell wrote. “In the absence of speaking to you to understand your current disposition toward child discipline, we cannot be sure that this conduct will not be repeated. Moreover, we are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.
“In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015. At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay.”
Finally, Goodell noted that any further violation by Peterson could result in “banishment from the NFL.”
“It is imperative that you to avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Goodell wrote. “Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”
After the NFL’s announcement, the NFLPA sent out a statement indicating it will file an appeal of Peterson’s suspension—and claiming that a league executive had promised Peterson that his time on the exempt list would constitute the whole of his punishment.
“The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take. Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.
“The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.”
The NFLPA calls for the appeal hearing to be overseen by an independent arbitrator. But the CBA mandates that Roger Goodell hear the appeal.