The following are excerpts from Daniel Summerlin’s interview on Virginia Talk Radio Network’s Sportsline about the complexity of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and what it means to the Adrian Peterson case. Radio personalities Richard Roth and Ed Lane asked Dan to make some sense out of the Roger Goodell’s role.
Q. Rich Roth: We welcome Daniel Summerlin of Woods Rogers, to the Sportsline to talk a little bit about one of his specialties, labor and employment law and the Adrian Peterson situation. We’re coming at this as total novices here. It looks like Roger Goodell is just trying to flex his muscles, what do you see?
A. Dan Summerlin: Good afternoon, thank you for having me on. It’s a very interesting situation, and very interesting to see it play out in the public arena this way. What we have is an example of the collective bargaining agreement or collective bargaining process that resulted in having Roger Goodell have a lot of that muscle to flex… it’s giving him a lot of power to do it and now that we’re seeing him really flex it, I think people are a little taken back by it. But in fact, this is the result of a process that occurred years ago as far as the collective bargaining agreement between the players association and the NFL. At the time, if you remember, the NFL players walked away from that agreement I think with more money; I think they got increased television percentage money. Since all negotiations are give and take, they gave up some control and some power. That power rests with Mr. Goodell and here that agreement allows him to be the judge and the jury in these personal conduct situations. That’s what he’s done in issuing this letter and suspending him through April 2015. I think people are surprised by that but he does have the ability to do it. What makes it even more interesting is not only is Goodell the judge and jury but he’s also the appellate court. So you can appeal all you want, but you have to go right back to the same guy who just issued your sentence— which makes it very difficult.
Q. Rich Roth: Good thing you guys don’t have to do that, right?
A. Dan Summerlin: That’s right, it would be a very short case most of the time and not very good for my career.
Q. Ed Lane: We’re talking with Daniel Summerlin of Woods Rogers on the Sportsline across the Virginia Talk Radio Network. When you mentioned the bargaining part of this, and what it brought for the players which meant the commissioner had more say in this…how difficult is it to change something like a collective bargaining agreement before you get through the end of it without really upsetting the apple cart.
A. Dan Summerlin: It is very, very, difficult if not impossible. I think this is somewhat why you see Rusty Hardin showing up in every talk show today. He knows what he’s up against from the legal perspective. It’s going to very difficult to change. He can appeal to Goodell or they can ask for Goodell to step aside and have a third party decide it. There’s no real reason Goodell is going to do that here. He did it in the Ray Rice case but that but that was a different case that involved Goodell’s knowledge so there was a reason for him to step aside there. Here, there is no such reason, I don’t see him doing it. Then you’re left with a “can we go and run to court and have the court intervene and maybe issue a temporary restraining order?”, on the NFL saying, “Peterson gets to play this year while we sort all of this mess out.” That’s something that I think you may see happen, I think it’s a tough road for Peterson to prove, he’s got to prove irreparable damage, and in the legal world of irreparable damage, money doesn’t count! So just the fact that he’s losing his salary isn’t enough. What are his damages beyond that? I don’t know, it’s tough. So, I think he’s got a tough legal road to try and have any court intervene and change the expiration of the agreement, because the court is going to look at it and say, “listen, you all agreed to this process years ago and got something in return for it and now you just don’t like it,” and that’s tough. Part of this reasoning might be my management-side representation bias coming out but that’s how I think it will play out.
Q. Rich Roth: How quickly, if he goes the process of trying to get the courts to step in, can that happen? Obviously there are a limited number of weeks left in the season and my fantasy team is just hanging in the balance here.
Ed Lane: Ah, the true motive!
A. Dan Summerlin: Right, you could go to court tomorrow and file and ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order in the next few days— it may take a week— but that burden gets even higher to prove to the necessary standards which makes it even harder to win. So it is possible to do it quickly, it is possible that a court could rule that he could get on the field this year, but I think that’s highly unlikely.
Rich Roth: Daniel, thank you so much for shedding a little bit of light on this. Most of us are sitting here without any idea what’s going on. We appreciate your insight, thank you!
Dan Summerlin: My pleasure, thank you guys.
Rich Roth: Daniel Summerlin of Woods Rogers, kind enough to put it in layman’s terms, what’s going on with the Adrian Peterson situation.
Ed Lane: Makes it much more understandable, after hearing him break it down.
Rich Roth: Can I file a grievance as a fantasy owner? That was my next question.
Ed Lane: You might have a case, but it matters who hears it.