There is a clear distinction between the Ray Rice appeal and the Adrian Peterson appeal.
Roger Goodell first suspended Rice for two games and a $500,000 fine after a June 16 meeting. He “re-suspended” Rice indefinitely in September after the video surfaced of Rice knocking out his fiancé. The issue for Rice’s appeal was whether Goodell considered new evidence between the first meeting on June 16 and the September suspension. Today, Judge Barbara Jones ruled that he did not. Rotowire's Chris Liss summed it up in a single tweet:
The difference between Rice and Peterson is that Goodell did not suspend Peterson initially. Instead, Peterson agreed to go onto the Commissioner’s Exempt List—he provided Goodell and the Vikings with a safe-haven from the public’s wrath following the release of the second Rice video—a move he surely regrets.
Peterson should’ve followed 49ers linebacker Ray McDonald’s lead. After McDonald was arrested he did what has been customary for arrested NFL players: just continue to practice and play until told otherwise by Goodell.
Had he done so, Peterson would’ve forced Goodell to either discipline him immediately or wait until the legal proceedings were concluded (what Goodell did with McDonald). Instead, Peterson trusted Goodell to take him off the Exempt List following his legal proceedings.
Because Peterson gave Goodell a pass when it came to administering discipline, he doesn’t have what Rice had for his appeal: two separate suspensions for the same action. All Peterson has is a single suspension from Goodell—that limits Peterson’s arguments on appeal.
The weapon Peterson gained from the Rice ruling, however, is a finding that Goodell acted completely arbitrarily and is capable of delivering whimsical suspensions based purely on the public’s temperature of a particular situation taken on a given day.
As Judge Jones found, "The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline." Instead, Goodell acted, and continues to act, completely arbitrary with respect to player discipline.
More specifically, it has been reported that Goodell told Rice that the new domestic violence policy is not retroactive. If true, Rice becomes a witness at the Peterson hearing. Peterson will use Rice to argue that the old personal conduct policy should apply to him, which would expose Peterson to a two-game ban.
It has been continually argued for some time that Goodell abuses his power. Judge Jones cemented that fact in her finding: “I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion.”
It’s time Goodell relinquish the power of the sole decision-maker with respect to player discipline. He’s shown he can’t handle that responsibility.
The higher summit Rice and Peterson have to reach is finding a team willing to take the significant public relations blow that would undoubtedly follow with signing either player. Michael Salfino aptly labeled Rice “radioactive.” The same goes for Peterson—between an incompetent commissioner, drawn out appellate procedures and an atrocious PR trail, neither is likely to play in 2014.
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