I read an article about 2 Broncos players, D.J. Williams and Ryan MCBean, who recently filed a lawsuit against the NFL in order to overturn their drug suspensions. They filed an appeal that was rejected by NFL hearing officer Harold Henderson, who works for the commissioner's office. Currently appeals are heard by the commissioner or a commissioner's designee. Henderson is the commissioner's designee.
Although the lawsuit deals directly with the NFL's substance abuse policy their claims are extremely similar to ours in regards to the NFL's joke of an appeal process and how the decisions all lie with the NFL, mainly Goodell, aside from a few instances.
This is the original article and quote that caught my eye:
"The suit from Williams and McBean contends Henderson exceeded his powers and wasn't an impartial arbitrator. The claim could have wider implications for drug cases in the NFL, including the HGH testing policy, which is now in limbo. Players want an independent arbitrator involved any time there is a challenge to a positive drug test, including one for HGH."
According to the actual petition to vacate the arbitration awards filed by the players they are asking the court to "preliminarily enjoin the NFL from effectuating the threatened suspensions pending resolution of the instant action."
Petition to vacate arbitration awards (Filed by D.J. Williams and Ryan MCBean)
Don't these complaints sound familiar?
After some research I learned that the NFL operates under the Federal Arbitration Act which "provides for contractually-based compulsory and binding arbitration, resulting in an arbitration award entered by an arbitrator or arbitration panel as opposed to a judgment entered by a court of law. Where the parties have agreed to arbitrate, they must do so in lieu of going to court, provided that the proceeding is fundamentally fair—that is, equivalent in fairness to the public courts." Basically it states that if the NFL is going to keep it in house it has to be as fair as the court system system should be.
I found a number of court cases filed by NFL players citing FAA violations and wondered if this could be an option for the Saints (assuming their appeals are rejected) so I did a little more more research. I found that disorderly "presentation of evidence" leading to "a lack of reasonable procedural protection" is a possible candidate.
Throwing the Red Flag on the Commissioner: How Independent Arbitrators Can Fit into the NFL's Off-Field Discipline Procedures Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (Valparaiso University Law Review)
It also seems that Saints player appeals will depend on how their misconduct is classified. Off-field misconduct appeals go back to Goodell just like coaches, owners and clubs (except for money matters) but on-field misconduct appeals go to either Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, both independent arbitrators, after the penalties are handed down by the NFL.
I am surprised the appeals process was not addressed in the last CBA discussion because I have heard the players union complain about it and I am wondering if the clubs are beginning to see that Goodell has too much power. Either way I hope something changes soon.
If you have not looked through the current CBA or NFL constitution and bylaws, you will be amazed to see just how power Goodell actually has.