The NFL rejected Adrian Peterson's appeal to be reinstated in the league on Friday. The Minnesota Vikings star was suspended without pay for the season by league officials this November in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident involving his 4-year-old son.
Peterson pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the case to avoid jail time and has lobbied to return to football over the objections of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has previously said the running back showed "no meaningful remorse" for his actions.
"I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent," NFL appeals officer Harold Henderson said in a statement tweeted by league spokesman Greg Aiello.
"He was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline," Henderson added.
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) said they expected the outcome, "given the hearing officer's relationship and financial ties to the NFL." The NFLPA had requested an independent arbiter determine Peterson's fate. Henderson is a former NFL executive.
"The decision itself ignores the facts, the evidence and the collective bargaining agreement. This decision also represents the NFL's repeated failure to adhere to due process and confirms its inconsistent treatment of players. Our union is considering immediate legal remedies," the NFLPA said in a statement.
Peterson has admitted to hitting his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, a method of discipline he says he was raised with. However, in a Nov. 21 interview with USA Today, he pledged that he "won’t ever use a switch again" on his children and that he and his son are working to repair the damage the controversy has caused.
The Peterson case received widespread attention and scrutiny because it closely followed the fallout from the NFL's handing of a February domestic violence incident involving ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. The league initially suspended Rice for only two games when video surfaced of him striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator. The backlash led to Rice's suspension being extended indefinitely this September -- a decision that was reversed on appeal.
Some critics have argued that Peterson was too severely punished by the league in an attempt to make up for its shortcomings in the Rice case and its poor handling of incidents of player-inflicted violence in the past. Sports writer Dave Zirin has argued that by levying a harsh punishment on Peterson, the NFL and Goodell were engaging in “a profoundly cynical exercise in personal and professional brand rehabilitation.”
On Wednesday, the NFL revealed a new personal conduct policy, which included a minimum six-game suspension without pay for any domestic violence infraction and the creation of a special league disciplinary officer.
“The policy is comprehensive,” Goodell said in a Wednesday afternoon press conference in Dallas. “It is strong. It is tough. And it is better for everyone associated with the NFL.”