If so, it’s because it should.
The league and union have been at odds for months over the issue of neutral arbitration for appeals of disciplinary measures taken by the NFL against players. Previously, this has occurred in cases under the sport’s personal conduct policy. Now it has extended to Brady’s appeal of his suspension for his role in the DeflateGate scandal.
The refrain should be familiar by now: The union pushes for a neutral arbitrator. The league resists. From there, very little proceeds in an orderly manner.
In the Adrian Peterson case, Goodell appointed Harold Henderson, a former labor executive for the league, to hear Peterson’s appeal of his suspension. Henderson upheld the penalty. The union, which had objected to Henderson’s appointment and questioned his independence, took the case to federal court in Minnesota and prevailed. U.S. District Judge David S. Doty sent the case back to the NFL for further proceedings under the collective bargaining agreement. The league appealed Doty’s ruling and, in the meantime, basically stuck to its April 15 timetable for considering Peterson’s reinstatement and reinstated him.
In the Greg Hardy case, Goodell again has appointed Henderson to resolve Hardy’s appeal of his 10-game suspension by the league under the conduct policy. Hardy’s appeal hearing is scheduled for May 28. Legal analysts predict the union could head back to court if Henderson upholds Hardy’s suspension.
That also could be the pattern in Brady’s case. In the Brady appeal, Goodell was authorized either to hear the appeal himself or designate someone to hear it, as with cases under the personal conduct policy. This time, Goodell chose to hear the case himself after authorizing Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, to impose the DeflateGate penalties on Brady and the New England Patriots.
Those on the players’ side of the sport point out that things often have gone far differently when Goodell has turned over past cases to neutral arbitrators. A former federal judge, Barbara S. Jones, overturned Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension. A former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, overturned the suspensions of the players involved in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case.
In part, this is each side playing its role in a labor-management relationship. The league and union are supposed to be confrontational at times.
But the relationship between these two sides has turned so confrontational, with such a lack of trust, that no cases, it seems, are resolved in an orderly fashion any longer.
Each case, it seems, has become a potential courtroom clash.
Brady’s case in only the latest to fall under that category.