Adrian Peterson wins federal lawsuit against NFL

The order from Judge David Doty is quite scathing, saying that the arbitrator did not properly address the NFLPA's argument that Commissioner Roger Goodell was applying the new discipline policy retroactively to Peterson, and "simply disregarded the law of the shop." The order also says the arbitrator exceeded his authority by making a conclusion about whether the discipline was consistent with the previous policy, something the parties did not even ask him to consider.

Ray Rice case a factor

It is very rare for a judge to overturn an arbitrator. As long as the arbitrator "even arguably" correctly applied the law, their decision typically stands.

The case of former Baltimore Ravens running back proved important in in Judge Doty's order, noting inconsistencies in how the two arbitrators looked at applying NFL's discipline policy. Rice's arbitrator held that the new discipline policy was not retroactive, while Peterson's arbitrator applied it that way.

Vikings statement

Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization. Today's ruling leaves Adrian's status under the control of the NFL, the NFLPA and the legal system, and we will have no further comment at this time.

"This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. "Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players' rights. This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game."

NFL statement

"Judge Doty's order did not contain any determinations concerning the fairness of the appeals process under the CBA, including the commissioner's longstanding authority to appoint a designee to act as hearing officer. Even so, we believe strongly that Judge Doty's order is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court's role in reviewing arbitration decisions. As a result, we have filed a notice of appeal to have the ruling reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the interim, Adrian Peterson will be returned to the Commissioner Exempt List pending further proceedings by appeals officer Harold Henderson or a determination by the Eighth Circuit Court."

Next steps

The case now goes back to the arbitrator who must stick with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.


After pleading no contest to child abuse charges in Texas, Peterson was suspended by the NFL until at least April 15.

Peterson appealed his suspension before, but an arbitrator sided with the NFL. His lawyer is now hoping a federal judge will see things differently, and immediately reinstate the Minnesota Vikings running back.