Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

Website URL: http://FieldandCourt.com

 

Michael Salfino and 4for4.com’s Josh Moore posed interesting questions about Bell’s impending suspension.

Screen shot_2014-12-09_at_12.14.14_PM

Screen shot_2014-12-09_at_12.14.26_PM

With his strong start of the 2014 season, Le’Veon Bell made those who picked him in fantasy drafts look incredibly insightful. And since LeGarrette Blount’s departure, Bell has torched the NFL, gaining 711 total yards and five touchdowns on an insane 96 touches in three weeks.

It goes without saying (but I will anyway), Bell will be a prime keeper candidate in 2015. The issue for Bell, however, is the suspension that’s waiting to smack him in the face.

On August 20, Bell was arrested for driving under the influence. If you recall, Bell was not drunk—he was high (marijuana).

Bell admitted as much: “I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore. I’m perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to make it to my game?”

DUI laws apply to marijuana in the same way they do to alcohol—it's all DUI.

Under the league’s new substance abuse policy, Bell is subject to a two-game ban due to the DUI. Had he pled guilty to the DUI prior to the issuance of the new substance abuse policy, Bell would’ve avoided a suspension and would’ve only paid a fine (up to $50,000).

Perhaps Bell didn’t plead guilty for DUI (as Josh Gordon did immediately and prior to the new substance abuse policy) because he was also charged with possession of marijuana. The possession charge subjects Bell to a four-game timeout. In any event, it's perplexing that he wasn't able to come to an agreement prior to the new substance abuse policy taking effect that would allow him to plead guilty to just the DUI case and have the possession case dismissed. 

So as it is now, Bell waived his right to a preliminary hearing on all charges and is campaigning to enter Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

The ARD program is a diversion program that permits first-time defendants charged with minor crimes to complete services in order to have the case ultimately dismissed and the arrest record expunged.

Only the “attorney for the Commonwealth” (prosecutor) can file a motion with the court to consider the case for the ARD program. The defendant (Bell) can request for inclusion into the program, however. In that application, he must make statements to the prosecutor as to why he should be granted inclusion into the program. Those statements cannot be used against the defendant for any purpose in any criminal proceeding.

Bell Lights

Bell’s statements will include an admission to the DUI and possession of marijuana—every diversionary program requires the defendant to make admissions of guilt. This is different from Adrian Peterson’s plea when Peterson pled no contest (nolo contendere) and was convicted. “No contest” means a defendant is not challenging the evidence against him or her and is letting the judge determine if there is sufficient evidence for a conviction.

Under the substance abuse policy, the player’s admissions to gain entry into any diversionary program will be evaluated for possible discipline.

Bell has not been accepted into the ARD program yet but his case is ripe for inclusion. Once he does get accepted into the program, the NFL will begin the process of administering discipline under the new substance abuse policy.

It will be irrelevant if Bell completes the ARD program and has his charges dismissed and arrest record expunged for two reasons. First, players cannot avoid punishment under substance abuse policy simply by entering and completing a diversionary program. Secondly, under Pennsylvania law, completion of the ARD program “may be statutorily construed as a conviction for purposes of computing sentences on subsequent convictions.” That means, Bell will have a “first conviction” after completing the ARD program.

It’s widely projected that Bell will receive the mandatory two-game suspension for the DUI only. The unknown in Bell’s case is the possession of marijuana charge.

In all likelihood, the possession charge will be dismissed and he will enter the ARD program based solely on the DUI—that’s a reasonable deal his attorney should be able to work out with the prosecutor.

If that’s the case, Bell will most likely wait until this season is over, enter the ARD program and serve his two-game suspension at the beginning of the 2015 regular season (not preseason). If the league punishes Bell for possession of marijuana, then he would be looking at a four-game suspension.

How much Bell should be discounted in 2015 fantasy drafts based on a two-game ban will be debated. Josh Gordon, circa 2013, will be at the forefront of the Bell debate.

Gordon was suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season and still managed to lead the league in receiving yards and was arguably the best wide receiver to own in fantasy. Gordon had an 8.02 ADP in 2013, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

With the way Bell is playing now, and with no real threat to his carries, Bell will have a much higher ADP than Gordon’s in 2013. Gordon’s 2012 season wasn’t close to Bell’s 2014 season so drafters will have a better gauge at what they’re getting with Bell, even with him missing the first two games of the season.

And as far as keeping Bell, there’s no question that if you can, you should. Bell is neck-and-neck with DeMarco Murray for the top fantasy running back this year. You need medication if you think Bell isn’t worth keeping because you’ll be without him for two games.

Psst, c'mere...Follow Me, let me show you something.

Saturday, 29 November 2014 13:55

Ray Rice Appeal: NFL's New, New Conduct Policy

Sometimes in my life I see things and then look around confused like, “Am I the only one seeing this shit?!?” I had that exact thought when I read the NFL’s statement following Judge Barbara Jones’ overturning Ray Rice’s discipline. Here’s a portion of the league’s statement:

“Judge Jones’ ruling underscores the urgency of our work to develop and implement a clear, fair and comprehensive new personal conduct policy. We expect this policy to be completed and announced in the weeks ahead. Our focus is on consistently enforcing an improved policy going forward.”

BernieMac

If you’re a parent, you’re the CEO of a small company: your family. Let’s take a look at how this looks if you were implementing a “conduct policy” for your children.

First, you have rules that you know are ineffective—the kids are receiving insufficient punishments that don’t deter the bad behavior whatsoever. Your extended family let’s you know your rules suck and your kids are out of control, so you change them overnight.

And you change the policy only after one of your family members posted a video on Facebook of your children peeing in grandma’s fridge, trying to flush the cat down the toilet and hogtieing the neighbor’s dog.

Not only do you change the rules overnight, you tell little Timmy that the new, impulsively changed rules apply to the stuff he did a couple of months ago and that he’s punished again for giving the cat a swirly.

Well that doesn’t make sense to little Timmy, so he goes and tells grandma all about it. Grandma overturns the punishment for obvious reasons and scolds Timmy’s parents, letting them know they need to be fair and consistent. “Get a backbone!” grandma tells them.

So Timmy’s parents sit up tall and immediately announce that they will be working on a “new, new” conduct policy and pinkie promise it’s going to be implemented fair and square.

That’s what the NFL did by making the statement they are going to “work to develop and implement a clear, fair and comprehensive new personal conduct policy” following the Rice decision.

They already did that on August 28 with the letter sent by Roger Goodell. That letter was the new personal conduct policy. Now, after having its bottom spanked by Judge Jones, the league wants to create a bright and shiny, new, new personal conduct policy. I wonder what’ll happen if they lose the Adrian Peterson appeal. Maybe a new, new, new personal conduct policy will be announced.

NFL, I like your focus, you just gotta change your aim. The problem isn’t the policy (any of them), it’s the guy implementing it.

That's you Goodell. Just stop it. You don’t get it. Now go sit on Uncle Adam Silver’s lap so he can teach you all about running a league and executing a conduct policy. 

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:

Screen Shot_2014-11-28_at_3.40.00_PM

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.

Follow Me on Twitter.

Sunday, 23 November 2014 15:10

Josh Gordon's Return: 10 Key Factors

  • Josh Gordon has been a fixture at Cleveland's facility and kept himself in incredible shape.
  • Gordon is 100% healthy, something just about no other NFL player can say right now—from Week 1 on, every player’s “100%” becomes less and less, even though they say they’re 100%.
  • Brian Hoyer has averaged 32.5 pass attempts per game, good for 15th in the league. Andrew Hawkins (5’7”) has the most targets (85) and receptions (45).
  • Hoyer has thrown 11 touchdowns in 10 weeks without Gordon. Hoyer threw 5 touchdowns in 2 weeks with Gordon in 2013.
  • In 2013, Hoyer targeted Gordon on 30.4% of his pass attempts. This season, Antonio Brown is the most targeted wideout and is receiving 29.8% of Big Ben’s attempts. Julio Jones is second with 27.5%.
  • The Falcons cede an average of 281.2 passing yards per game, worst in the league.
  • Atlanta has the second-fewest sacks in the league and give up 25.5 points per game (23rd-most).
  • Atlanta’s starting cornerback Robert Alford had a season-ending injury (wrist) last week.
  • Desmond Trufant will shadow Gordon. Trufant struggled against Kevlin Benjamin last week.
  • Gordon is on a 20-30 snap count, which in all likelihood will be exceeded by 10-15 more snaps. 

From all accounts, Gordon has been a fixture at the Browns facility and has kept himself in incredible shape.

Earlier in the week Browns head coach Mike Pettine said he would be on a snap count. Pettine’s comments after watching Gordon practice showed that Gordon divorced himself of any snap count this Sunday.

This is Gordon’s Week 1—the past three months have been his training camp. If this were truly Week 1, you would start Gordon without question.

What are the concerns? He’s not 100% in game-shape. There have been eleven weeks of football—not one player, other than Gordon, is 100% right now. Not one.

From Week 1 on, each player’s “100%” dwindles. So when you hear a guy coming off of injury, or after playing in just one game and not even being “injured,” say he’s 100%, what he’s really saying is, “My new 100% is about 85% percent.” Even if the players Gordon is lining up against aren’t on the injury report, in football, just about every player is dealing with some type of ailment. But not Gordon...not yet.

I grew up watching Andre the Giant, The Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Superfly Snuka and the rest of the WWF (not “E”). Gordon’s the guy in a tag-team match watching everyone beating each other up, arm stretched out into the ring, yelling “Tag me! Tag me!” Gordon’s teammates are crawling over towards their corner, desperately reaching for Gordon’s hand. Hoyer smacked it.

Gordon is stepping into the ring 100% fresh after watching everyone get their ass kicked for 11 rounds.

BY THE NUMBERS:

If you don’t like the common-sense approach and want something more concrete, then let’s do this by the numbers.

Someone asked me how I think Gordon would fare in Kyle Shanahan’s run-heavy scheme. Hoyer has only averaged 32.5 pass attempts per game, true. But look at his targets. No disrespect to Andrew Hawkins, but he’s not a guy an offensive coordinator is going to center the offense around. Despite having sub-par targets, Hoyer is still thrown the rock the 15th-most times in the NFL.

And with three capable, if not awe-inspiring, running backs, there will undoubtedly be a balance to the offense. The Browns have yet to suit up a true No. 1 wideout, plus Jordan Cameron has been absent.

Hoyer has thrown 11 touchdowns in 10 weeks without Gordon. With Gordon last season, he threw 5 touchdowns in 2 weeks.

Last season, Hoyer targeted Gordon on 30.4% of his passes. This season, Antonio Brown is the most targeted wideout at 29.8%, Julio Jones is second with 27.5%.

Then there’s Atlanta. They have managed to give up the most passing yards this season, 281.2 per game. And the Falcons lack any resemblance of a pass-rush, boasting the second-fewest sacks in the league. They also give up a ton of points (25.5) per game.

The Falcons will also be without starting cornerback Robert Alford, but will probably use Desmond Trufant to stalk Gordon anyway. Trufant is talented, but Gordon is better. Gordon is certainly better than Kelvin Benjamin, who Trufant struggled against last week.

Put yourself in Gordon’s shoes. Think about how pumped you’d be for this game. Gordon will have plenty of opportunities, despite being on a reported snap-count. He’s a top-5 play this week and for the remainder of the season. Now reach around and give yourself a butt-pat for having him on your roster.  

Thursday, 20 November 2014 20:16

NFLPA's Letter to Roger Goodell & What It Means

It was a foregone conclusion Adrian Peterson would appeal the suspension handed down by Roger Goodell. Goodell suspended Peterson without pay for the remainder of this season and directed Peterson to enroll and engage in a treatment plan put together by the NFL.

Goodell’s punishment also included Peterson’s time spent on the Exempt List. So in all, Goodell suspended Peterson 15 games and a six-game fine.

The NFLPA’s general counsel, Tom DePaso, wrote a five-page letter to Goodell, which served as Peterson’s notice of appeal pursuant to the CBA. In the letter, DePaso stated with specificity the issues Peterson would be appealing, along with a detailed timeline of the events that have taken place since Peterson’s indictment.

PETERSON'S ARGUMENTS

Ex Post Facto Discipline

Peterson’s first ground for appeal is based on ex post facto punishment. Ex post facto means behavior is punished now when it wouldn’t have been punished when it was originally done.

In Peterson’s case, the argument is he should be disciplined under the CBA as it was written in May of 2014 (when he hit his child), not under Goodell’s August 28 “domestic violence” letter. Peterson was indicted on September 11. Because Peterson is being disciplined for his actions (beating his child), the May date should control. “Should” being the operative word.

Some of you may be confused about the retroactive application of Goodell’s August 28 letter compared to the new substance abuse policy that was applied retroactively earlier this season with guys like Wes Welker and Josh Gordon.

The key distinction between Goodell’s August 28 letter and the new substance abuse policy is the new substance abuse policy was collectively bargained (between the NFL and NFLPA) whereas Goodell’s August 28 letter was not. Goodell simply made new rules for the players without the players’ input.

Disparate Treatment

Peterson’s next ground for appeal is that his indefinite suspension “is wildly disparate from that of any previous similarly situated employee, and therefore cannot stand.” DePaso cited “selective enforcement” as the basis for this ground. Peterson is saying that he should be treated similar to how other players have been treated in his circumstances. DePaso argued that no NFL player has received more than a two-game ban for domestic violence except Ray Rice.

This argument ignores the league’s new stance on domestic violence. It also ignores the fact that there is no set discipline in the new or old personal conduct policy. What is deemed appropriate discipline is left on the desk of Roger Goodell.

Peterson is also challenging the new disciplinary process inaugurated in Peterson’s case. Specially, DePaso is challenging the November 14 hearing that Peterson refused to attend. Customarily, the player and Goodell have a “sit down” and go over what occurred and what the punishment will be.

In Peterson’s case, Goodell enacted a new system whereby some type of unprecedented hearing would occur, including having “outside individuals” participate in the hearing. This is a non-issue except Goodell cited not knowing Peterson’s current attitude with respect to his actions. Still, it’s a minor issue that is likely to be disregarded by the arbitrator.

Neutral Hearing Officer for Appeal

DePaso also demanded that Goodell recuse himself and anyone from Goodell’s office from hearing Peterson’s appeal. DePaso explained that Goodell and his office have shown that “[t]here is simply no way for you to impartially arbitrate Mr. Peterson’s appeal.”

The hint of all hints came in the second-to-last sentence in DePaso’s five-page letter. DePaso said if Goodell or “anyone associated with the NFL” issued a decision in Peterson’s appeal, it would not “be enforceable under the Labor Management Relations Act or the Federal Arbitration Act.”

What that means, in no uncertain terms, is that Peterson is planning on taking his case to federal court.

The Labor Management Relations Act gives federal court authority to enforce collectively bargained agreements, such as the NFLPA/NFL’s CBA. And the Federal Arbitration Act is used to challenge decisions made by arbitrators when there is evidence of “partiality or corruption in the arbitrators.”

The NFL used the Labor Management Relations Act when Kevin and Pat Williams (Minnesota Vikings) filed suit against the NFL in the Star Caps case.

Peterson’s appeal is based on and is challenging not only the discipline Goodell handed down, but also Goodell’s direct actions (unilaterally changing the Personal Conduct Policy). Just as in the Ray Rice case, the NFLPA will call Goodell (or at least should) to testify about his action of unilaterally changing the policy. That alone should make Goodell understand he is ill suited to hear the appeal. If Goodell exercises his right to hear Peterson’s appeal, you will soon see Peterson v. NFL, et al.

If only Goodell would’ve collectively bargained the changes to the Personal Conduct Policy. He was just under too much fire and had to do something to quickly appease the lynch mob that was forming at his front door. 

Follow me and you can step up to my front door on Twitter.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 18:24

What To Expect Next In Adrian Peterson Case

Prior to even receiving the arbitrator’s decision, the NFL executed a preemptive strike and announced this morning that they have suspended Adrian Peterson “without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season,” according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Don’t be confused, the NFL’s suspension is an indefinite one. Peterson can only apply for reinstatement after April 15—nothing is guaranteed.

In fact, Goodell wrote to Peterson that if Peterson doesn’t comply with the therapeutic program the NFL is putting together for Peterson, it “will result in a lengthier suspension without pay.”

For those of you stating that the suspension should have been limited to six games, you’re not reading the modified NFL Personal Conduct Policy correctly. On August 28, Roger Goodell unilaterally modified the Personal Conduct Policy to include a six-game ban for first offenses. At least that’s what it sounded like at first glance.

The language used by Goodell in the August 28 modification gives Goodell complete discretion over the number of games a player is to be suspended for the first offense.

The important language in Goodell’s letter modifying the policy was that first offenses would result in a six-game suspension “with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.”

The squishy “consideration given to mitigating factors” and “when circumstances warrant” language renders the six-game suspension phrase useless. When I read Goodell’s letter, I see what he really means is that a first offense can result in a suspension from 0-to-16 games. Peterson now knows this too.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Under the CBA (assuming the NFL is willing to still abide by those terms), Peterson has three days to appeal Goodell’s decision. There’s no question that by the time you’ve read this, Peterson already filed his notice of appeal.

At the appeal hearing, Peterson will set forth reasons why his suspension should be reduced. Goodell, after consultation with NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith, will appoint one or more designees to serve as hearing officers. Goodell could also serve as the hearing officer to decide Peterson’s appeal. Based on the vast amount of evidence against Peterson, a reduction is highly unlikely.

After filing the notice of appeal, typically Peterson would be able to play. In this case, however, Peterson is still on the Exempt list and will have to remain sidelined until the arbitrator decides that issue.

If the arbitrator’s decision is that Peterson is to be removed from the list, then theoretically, Peterson could play until his appeal has been decided. Again, the chances of that occurring don’t seem reasonable given the NFL’s robust desire to keep Peterson off the field, not to mention the Vikings would most likely deactivate him like they did in Week 2.

It seems odd the NFL didn’t also put in its announcement today that they now agree to remove Peterson from the Exempt list. With Peterson’s criminal case concluded and having been disciplined by the league, there is no need for him to be on the list.

It would be wise for Goodell to show a rare act of good faith and agree that Peterson could be taken off the list and the normal disciplinary procedures be followed. But maybe that didn’t happen because the normal disciplinary procedures have vanished in favor of this new, Wild Wild West, shoot-from-the-hip type of discipline Sheriff Goodell has implemented.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TUESDAY

Typically under the CBA, appeal hearings “will be scheduled to commence within ten (10) days following receipt of the notice of appeal.” But according to Article 46(2)(f)(i) of the CBA, when a player is suspended during the season, an appeal hearing regarding that suspension “will be scheduled for the second Tuesday following” the player’s notice that he wants to appeal.

The expressed intent of the CBA is that in-season appeals “shall be heard no fewer than eight (8) days and no more than thirteen (13) days following the suspension.”

Of course, the CBA allows the parties to agree to an earlier or later date, but that’s doubtful in this case—the three sets of lawyers (the NFL’s, NFLPA’s and Peterson’s) haven’t agreed upon much thus far and the future doesn’t look promising either.

Peterson’s appeal is expected to be heard next Tuesday with a decision coming “as soon as practicable following the conclusion of the hearing,” according to the CBA, which of course, means one day to a week, or longer. Again with the squishy language.

PETERSON’S ACTIONS FOLLOWING HIS APPEAL

After Peterson loses his appeal, which the smart money is on, he will have the option of filing a civil suit in court. In fact, DeMaurice Smith has said that "litigation is inevitable."

Screen Shot_2014-11-18_at_11.55.59_AM

Filing a civil suit against the NFL won’t, by itself, allow Peterson to play immediately. He would have to convince a judge to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO), preventing the NFL from implementing the suspension that was just handed down.

While Josh Gordon had a fantastic case well suited for court and a TRO, Peterson does not.

Goodell's August 28 Letter

The NFLPA and/or Peterson will challenge the modified Personal Conduct Policy because it was not collectively bargained for—that was the August 28 letter Goodell forced down the players’ throats. In other words, the NFLPA had no input into the changes Goodell made—it was simply an executive order issued by Goodell.

Peterson will argue that the policy, like all other policies controlling the NFL and its employees (which all players are), must be collectively bargained for.

Even if the court were inclined to agree with Peterson’s argument that the August 28 letter is null and void because it wasn’t collectively bargained for, the ultimate decision to suspend Peterson would be supported by the CBA and the previous, unmodified Personal Conduct Policy.

In court, that’s called harmless error. That’s when you can show that error occurred, but when you take away the error, the result would’ve still been the same.

No Meeting With Goodell

Another, but weaker, argument the NFLPA and/or Peterson could make is that Goodell did not have a meeting with Peterson prior to disciplining him. And no, the hearing Peterson didn’t attend on Friday was not the typical meeting called for in the Personal Conduct Policy.

The Personal Conduct Policy states, “the employee will also have the opportunity, represented by counsel and/or a union official, to address the conduct at issue.” This has typically taken the form of Goodell having a meeting with the player.

Peterson wrote a letter to Goodell this past Thursday indicating that he was willing to have such a meeting but wouldn’t participate in the new, invented, and arbitrary disciplinary hearing the NFL was conducting.

The failure of Goodell to have the sit down with Peterson appears to have detrimentally affected Peterson. In his letter to Peterson, Goodell stated, “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.” Goodell went on to state, “we are unaware

OH BY THE WAY PETERSON, FIRE YOUR PR PERSON

I received a few questions about how Adrian Peterson was handling his case from a public relations standpoint. To put it plainly, it sucked.

I went to go see the movie, The Judge, this past weekend. Robert Downey, Jr.’s character said this to his dad (who was being questioned by police): “If you don’t talk, you walk.” Downey’s character then told his dad, “With every word, you’re limiting your options.”

If only Peterson had seen that movie, and then had the ability to abide by Downey’s advice.

If you read the NFL’s statement to Peterson, you see that one of the benchmark reasons for suspending Peterson was because Peterson’s “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.”

The comments the NFL was referring to were Peterson’s comments that what he did was defensible, and that he would do it again. He also made several comments—which the NFL cited—via text message to the child’s mother that shows Peterson felt it was justified to abuse the child.

Instead of making those statements and appearing completely oblivious to the abuse the 4-year-old child suffered, Peterson would have been well served to take the opportunity to demonstrate to the NFL, and more importantly, his family, that he wants to be more educated regarding effective parenting. Instead, Peterson has done little to nothing in regards to showing remorse for his actions.

In fact, Goodell stated in his letter to Peterson, “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.”

Had Peterson engaged in a therapeutic program of his own that included parenting classes and some form of parent-child therapy, maybe he would’ve received a time-served suspension, maybe not. Either way, it would have been better for Peterson’s case (and his family) had he done so.

FALLOUT OF IT ALL

The practical effect of Goodell’s decision places the Vikings in a horrible state of limbo. The 2015 NFL Draft begins on April 30, fifteen days after Goodell’s arbitrary April 15 date when he will review Peterson’s progress.

While the Vikings were most likely going to release Peterson following this season, now they will be forced to do so. The Vikings will be in the dark as to whether Goodell will be unsatisfied with Peterson’s progress and issue a lengthier suspension or not. Preparing for the draft and free agency will be complete guesswork for the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson has been the face of the Vikings for years, but that time has come to an end. Peterson’s next carry will be his first carry for his new NFL team in 2015—perhaps the Seahawks once Lynch is released.

And Greg Hardy, if you’re reading this, now might be a good time to get off that Exempt list. 

Follow me on Twitter, I won't put you on any exempt list.

I just saw these tweets by @RumfordJohnny:

Screen Shot_2014-11-15_at_7.28.59_AM

Screen Shot_2014-11-15_at_7.29.14_AM

I was going to reply with a way to prevent managers from becoming “a door mat” but 140 characters (280 if I’m bold) didn’t suffice. Thus, you get this. 

I’m the commissioner for a fantasy football league that has been running strong since 1997. Married...with Children, Martin and Beavis and Butt-head were still on the air when we started the league. It was a time when you secretly like the new hit song, MMMBop by Hanson. Yes, you did.

Since that time, one of the more frustrating aspects of fantasy football is exactly what Rummy tweeted: when managers abandon their teams because they are out of contention for the playoffs.

And right around this time of the season is when that evil demon rears its ugly head. You see managers fall off and leave injured players in their lineup or don’t change out a player with a clear “bad matchup.” And that manager could be playing against a team you need to lose so you can make it into the playoffs. 

As commissioner, I’ve come up with a pretty good way to stop the apathy of out-of-contention owners.

McCoy yawn

Fantasy football playoffs end at the time the NFL Playoffs are beginning. I use that to my advantage.

At the conclusion of our fantasy season, each manager picks one of the 12 NFL Playoff teams. The manager who won the league gets to pick their NFL team first, the runner-up in our league picks second, and so on. So if your fantasy team is in the consolation playoffs, there is still incentive to win because picking what you feel is the seventh-best NFL team is a lot better than picking the twelfth-best. You don’t want to be stuck with the Vikings who just happen to limp into the Playoffs.

Once everyone has their horse, then you watch the NFL Playoffs to see where your horse finishes. When the first four teams in the NFL Playoffs are eliminated, the team that scored the fewest points is last—that person gets the last “choice” of next year’s fantasy football draft.

If the team you picked wins the Super Bowl, then you’re first at picking your fantasy football draft position, 1st through 12th, or anywhere in between.

So basically, you pick your NFL team based on how you finished in the league, and then you pick your fantasy football draft position based on how your NFL team finishes in the NFL Playoffs. With this system, we’ve eliminated “door mat” owners, as Rummy described them—there is always incentive to win.

Want to see what I can do with 140 characters? Follow Me on Twitter.

Whether you condone the abuse Adrian Peterson perpetrated on his child or not, at this time, he needs to be on the playing field. That's not an opinion, it's a fact.

The “at this time,” in the first sentence is key. Let’s focus on that phrase for a minute.

At this time, Adrian Peterson no longer has a criminal case pending. At this time, Peterson is an NFL player who the NFL is evaluating for possible discipline.

Is the NFL going to discipline Peterson? Of course. That’s not the question. The question is, when will the NFL discipline Peterson?

The NFLPA gave the NFL a self-imposed deadline of Monday at 5:00 p.m. to remove Peterson from the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List. The NFL failed to meet the deadline and the NFLPA promptly filed a non-injury grievance on Peterson’s behalf the same day.

Article 43 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement governs non-injury grievances. Section 4 of Article 43 indicates that a hearing on a grievance filed by a suspended player “will be held by an arbitrator...within seven (7) days of the filing of the grievance.”

Peterson’s grievance hearing is schedule for Monday, November 17, the day after Minnesota’s Week 11 tilt with Chicago, which makes it seem like the setting of hearing complies with the CBA. It only seems that way.

The NFLPA and NFL included the following language in Section 4: “The NFLPA and NFL will engage in good faith efforts to schedule grievances...prior to the Club’s next scheduled game.” Peterson’s hearing should’ve been scheduled prior to Sunday. It’s baffling that Peterson’s camp allowed otherwise.

And that’s just setting the hearing, not getting the final decision.

Section 4 instructs the arbitrator to issue a decision “within five (5) days of the completion of the hearing.” Of course, the decision could be sooner, including the arbitrator ruling at the hearing itself. I’ve served as an arbitrator on several cases and, if thoroughly prepared for the hearing, am ready to rule at the hearing.

More than likely, the arbitrator in Peterson’s case, Shyam Das, will render a decision a day or two following the hearing. But what, exactly, will Das be ruling on?

Das won’t be ruling on whether Peterson is suspended for being found guilty in his criminal proceedings—it’s simpler than that.

Das will only be deciding whether Peterson is to remain on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List or not. A September 18 letter from Roger Goodell was used to put Peterson on the Exempt List.  That letter stated Peterson would be on the list “until the criminal charges pending against [Peterson] are adjudicated.”

There are no criminal charges pending against Peterson at this time. The language used in the September 18 letter no longer applies and Peterson should be removed from the Exempt List. 

Had the NFL included the language, “until the criminal charges are adjudicated and Peterson is disciplined by the league,” there would be no argument—Peterson would stay on the list until the league disciplined him. But the league didn’t use that language and only hinged Peterson remaining on the list based on pending criminal charges. Those charges no longer exist—they have converted into a conviction. 

FALLOUT OF PETERSON BEING TAKEN OFF COMMISSIONER’S LIST

Peterson being taken off the Exempt List will trigger a fierce, three-way battle between Peterson, the NFL and the Vikings.

The moment Peterson is removed from the list, he will be situated as any other NFL player: an active, non-disciplined player. That means, he gets to engage in all of the regular team activities as any other Vikings player would—there would be no NFL-imposed restrictions on his access to practice and play. The NFL would then be forced to dole out Peterson’s punishment immediately—the public would demand as much.

If the NFL suspends Peterson pursuant to the new domestic violence policy and gives him “time served” for the time he spent on the Exempt List, the matter will be resolved, at least for the NFL. The Vikings’ would then be forced to play their hand.

Any NFL discipline that puts Peterson on the field in the 2014 league year will put immeasurable pressure on Vikings brass. As I explained here, the more critical question looming for Peterson is what the Vikings will do with him, not the NFL.

As the Vikings showed earlier in the year, they are controlled by the court of public opinion when they deactivated, activated and then deactivated Peterson within a matter of days. It’s no stretch to say the public and sponsors will have a major say in Peterson’s fate. This is especially true as sponsorships waiver and the public (who the Vikings are relying heavily upon to build their new stadium) demands its pound of Peterson’s flesh.

Over the next few days Peterson’s case will take several turns, some which will suggest he won’t play this year and some that will hint at a Week 12 return. But at this time, Peterson’s legal case is resolved and he has yet to be disciplined by the NFL—that means he should be at practice and preparing for Week 11, no matter how you feel about his “parenting.” It’s simple: NFL players get in trouble but continue to play until they are told not to, e.g., Le'Veon Bell. The NFL has not told Peterson he is suspended, so he should be playing.

Instead, Peterson will lose the opportunity to play in Week 11 because of Goodell’s stall tactics and inability to competently discipline players.

All of this could’ve been avoided if the NFL had already conducted a competent investigation and was prepared to discipline Peterson at the conclusion of his legal proceedings.

What Goodell has done, instead, is use phony excuses to stall the imposition of Peterson’s discipline. One of those excuses is that Goodell wants to see the court file in Peterson’s case prior to grounding Peterson.

There’s so much bullsh*t in that last sentence that I had to borrow my brother’s fishing waders prior to writing it.

PETERSON’S COURT FILE

It appears the NFL is doing the exact opposite of what it did with respect to the Ray Rice case: it wants to gather all the evidence prior to making a decision. Sounds nice, but it only appears that way.

The judge in Peterson’s case sealed the record so no one is going to see it. Of course, Peterson can ask the judge if his employer could see the file, which the judge would surely grant.

But the court file is entirely irrelevant in this case.

The case against Peterson lasted 51 days from indictment to plea agreement. It takes longer to develop a habit than it did to resolve Peterson's case. His court file is minimal, thinner than the MacBook Air you're using right now.

Peterson's court file has an indictment, minute entries from the court hearings, stock pleadings that were undoubtedly filed by the State and little else. Those stock pleadings deal with notices that the State complied with disclosure rules and notices that Peterson will be impeached if he testifies.

The items that are vital for the NFL to review prior to disciplining Peterson are as follows: medical reports from the child’s doctor, statements of the child’s mother, Peterson and any other person who was interviewed, the police reports, photographs of the child’s wounds and the actual switch that was used to hit the child.

None of the items listed above will be found in the court file. Those items don’t become part of the record unless there is a trial, and then they become exhibits, not a part of the court file. There’s a difference.

All of the items listed could be reviewed by Peterson’s employer (the NFL) even though the judge sealed the court file because those items aren’t in the court file.

And is there any reasonable doubt that Roger Goodell has already read the several statements made by Peterson, along with reading the text messages Peterson sent to the child’s mother? Peterson’s statements and text messages were plastered on just about every sports website and all across ESPN for days. And if you Google anything related to Peterson these days, images of his child’s wounds are ever-present.

So the NFL has a finding of guilt, Peterson’s statements and text messages, images of the child abuse and access to the police reports. But they want to see the court file before imposing discipline, which has none of that.

The NFL has what it needs to render appropriate discipline for Peterson. Goodell is balking because he has become gun-shy after the Ray Rice debacle exposed him as incompetent in these highly publicized situations.

Looks like I’m gonna need a scuba suit...my brother’s waders won’t cut it when trudging through the NFL’s crap.

Follow Cedric on Twitter.

Thursday, 06 November 2014 19:51

Will The Vikings Reinstate Adrian Peterson?

For purposes of this article, I’m going to assume Roger Goodell agrees with my reasoning that Adrian Peterson being on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List qualifies as a suspension due to the definition of Accrued Season.

[Read all about my Accrued Season reasoning.]

So with the backdrop of Goodell letting Peterson out of his 8-week Timeout (see what I did there, Peterson? Try it next time...it won’t cost you millions), we have to turn our attention to the Minnesota Vikings.

Just because the NFL lets Peterson suit up doesn’t necessarily mean the Vikings will do the same.

The Vikings are holding the sword of Damocles over Peterson and still have to make the decision to activate him and allow him to play this year, or not. In actuality, it’s the public holding Damocles’ sword over the Vikings.

If you recall, the public already dropped that sword on the Vikings, and the Vikings reacted. Here’s how it all played out:

On September 4, the Grand Jury decided not to indict Peterson for the injuries he inflicted on his child. On September 7, Peterson suited up against the St. Louis Rams.

Before the wheels on the Vikings’ plane touched down in Minneapolis, TMZ released the second Ray Rice video showing him knocking out his then-fiancé. The public went crazy.

About a week prior to TMZ releasing the second Rice video, Goodell drafted a letter to all 32 NFL teams explaining how he got the Rice discipline wrong but will now “do better.” That letter was in direct response from mounting pressure from the public.

After Week 1 (September 7), Peterson practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday but not Thursday. Head coach Mike Zimmer called it a “veteran day off.” That was September 11.

On September 12, Peterson was indicted. Within thirty minutes of being indicted, the Vikings deactivated Peterson for Week 2.

The day after the Vikings’ 30-7 home loss to the Patriots (September 15), Peterson released a statement explaining that he was simply disciplining his child. In less than an hour after Peterson released his statement, the Vikings reinstated Peterson and clarified that with the “extensive information” they have, Peterson “deserves to play while the legal process plays out.” General Manager Rick Spielman stated (after seeing the photos of the child’s injuries), “We feel strongly as an organization this is disciplining a child.”

That same night, Radisson suspended its limited sponsorship of the Vikings “effective immediately.”

The next day (September 16), Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton called Peterson’s actions “a public embarrassment” and called for Peterson to be suspended immediately. That same day, Anheuser-Busch let it be known they were “monitoring” the Vikings’ and Goodell’s decisions regarding Peterson, and Castrol Oil suspended it sponsorship with Peterson.

Remember the Sword of Damocles? It dropped right at 2:00 a.m. on September 17. That’s the exact moment the Vikings place Peterson on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List.

Since placing Peterson on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, the Vikings have avoided public scrutiny over the Peterson situation. At most, they, along with the rest of the NFL community, have simply monitored the legal process and its results.

Now that the legal process has run its course, Peterson wants off the list and wants on the field. We have yet to hear from Goodell with respect to the league’s decision regarding Peterson’s suspension/fine. But let’s assume Goodell makes it where Peterson could play next week.

Then we have to pull focus on the Vikings brass.

And to be clear, the only way the Vikings can affect any of this is to cut Peterson because, under Article 46, Section 4 of the CBA, any blows delivered by Goodell supersede those of the Vikings—the team and Goodell cannot punish Peterson for the same conduct. 

All NFL players’ contracts contains the following stock language: “...if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judge by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, then Club may terminate this contract.”

That would be the term of Peterson’s contract the Vikings use to rid themselves of Peterson. The Vikings could use the “adversely affect or reflect” language in the player contract to terminate Peterson’s contract immediately.

One thing is for certain, the Vikings will feel some pressure to keep Peterson off the field. It’s hard to imagine a Minneapolis community accepting a convicted child abuser when they wouldn’t accept an alleged one. The only question is how strong that pressure will be. That will largely depend on the punishment dolled out by Goodell.

The Vikings have shown that they will bend to the community’s will.  And they certainly felt the force of community’s will when Nike stopped selling Peterson’s jerseys in Minneapolis stores and the Radisson pulled its partnership with the team.

And then there is the added undercurrent of the Vikings relying on public funds to build their new stadium—that will have an affect on Peterson’s return, as well.

If Goodell suspends Peterson for eight games (six games per the new domestic violence policy, plus two more for the aggravated circumstances of hitting a child repeatedly) and fines Peterson for those eight games, there shouldn’t be much public pressure to keep Peterson off the team. The Vikings should be able to rest on the NFL’s discipline and reinstate Peterson immediately

Peterson could certainly help his cause by putting on a strong public relations case and showing the public what he is doing to become a better parent and how he has learned from this experience. So far, not much has come from his camp. 

Have you learned from this experience? Then follow me on Twitter.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 15

Featured Writer

Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).