U.S. District Judge David S. Doty vacated the NFL's suspension of Adrian Peterson on Thursday, probably ensuring that the Minnesota Vikings player will soon return to the field. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Peterson in November after a grand jury indicted him for injuring his child. A police report provides the details:
Peterson’s son had shoved another of his children off a motorbike video game. In response, Peterson snatched a tree branch, picked off the leaves, and whipped his son on the legs, ankles, back, buttocks, and scrotum. According to the son, Peterson shoved leaves in his mouth during the whipping; Peterson’s son also said this kind of beating had occurred before.
Peterson ultimately pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years of community supervision—a predictably lenient punishment, given the fact that Peterson's conduct was arguably legal under Texas law. Still, Goodell decided to suspend Peterson until at least April 15, 2015, a decision an arbitrator quickly upheld. Goodell's authority to suspend Peterson, however, derived from new rules that were applied retroactively to Peterson's conduct, rendering the punishment "fundamentally unfair" and thus invalid, according to Doty.
The NFL is expected to appeal Doty's ruling and can seek an injunction to keep Peterson off the field while it contemplates its next move. Given how profoundly the NFL botched this entire undertaking, however, it seems unlikely that Peterson's suspension will be reinstated on appeal.