The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit against the league on Monday on behalf of suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson seeking to overturn an arbitrator's decision to uphold a six-game ban imposed by commissioner Roger Goodell.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, claims that NFL director of football operations Troy Vincent, a former cornerback and one-time president of the NFLPA, had assured Peterson in a telephone call last month that he would be suspended two games if he met with Goodell before the commissioner's announcement of a punishment.
ABC News aired the taped conversation yesterday morning, in which Peterson asked Vincent if the suspension would be two games.
"Two games?" Peterson said.
"Yeah, that is it," Vincent replied. "But you cannot . . . you've got to act. You gotta just go through the process."
The suit, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday, asks for Peterson to be reinstated immediately.
The NFLPA also claims that Peterson, who was arrested in May on felony charges of disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, should have been suspended two games because of previous sanctions for players involved in domestic violence.
Peterson had appealed Goodell's six-game suspension, which came after he missed time while placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list, but the appeal was denied on Friday by arbitrator Harold Henderson. The NFLPA claimed in a statement on Friday that Henderson, because of his previous ties to the NFL as the league's executive director of the Management Council, was not impartial.
The union suggested in the suit that Goodell purposely chose a close associate to have the suspension upheld.
"To insulate his own actions from any meaningful review, Commissioner Goodell designated someone he knew to be an evidently partial . . . to hear Mr. Peterson's disciplinary appeal," the suit said. "Sticking to the Commissioner's script, Mr. Henderson summarily rubber-stamped the unlawful process and punishment of Mr. Peterson."
Henderson wrote in his decision that "Mr. Vincent testified that he never promised a two-game suspension or that the old policy would control, but rather encouraged Mr. Peterson to 'go through the process and all things will be considered.' He said, 'I didn't promise Adrian anything. Never promised. Adrian needed to show up. Talk.' ''
The suit also claims that Peterson's requirement to seek reinstatement no earlier than April 15 represents an unfair timetable for his return to the NFL. The free- agency signing period begins before then, and the NFLPA contends that if the Vikings release him from his contract, he might have difficulty signing with a new team.
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit.