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Posted at 6:40 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

The legal side of the Haynesworth suspension

By Stephen L. Carter

As a law professor, I find myself drawn naturally to the legal aspects of the dispute between Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins. The team has suspended Haynesworth for the remainder of the season. Presumably he will pursue a grievance. To understand the likely outcome of his grievance, it is useful to understand how the disciplinary process functions under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Under Section 1(a) of Article VIII (“Club Discipline”), four games is the maximum term for a suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. There are now four games left in the season. Had the Redskins suspended Haynesworth any earlier, the four games would have expired before the end of the season, and the team would have had to decide whether to keep him or cut him. Now the team can end the season without the prospect of the Haynesworth problem looming over every practice and every game.

But a closer analysis of the CBA also explains why the case is tricky – and why Haynesworth has a fighting chance of getting back at least one week’s salary on appeal. The provision of the CBA limiting suspensions to four weeks states that its limits apply to “any deactivation of a player in response to player conduct (other than a deactivation in response to a players on-field playing ability).” Even a deactivation with pay, if done for disciplinary reasons, counts against the maximum four weeks of discipline.

This restriction, negotiated in 2006, is intended explicitly to overturn the ruling by then-arbitrator Richard Bloch in the 2005 grievance filed by Terrell Owens. That year, the Philadelphia Eagles suspended Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, and announced its intention to keep him deactivated (albeit, with pay) once the suspension expired. The details of Owens’s antics are not important, except to note that the tale was bizarrely similar to the Haynesworth saga. Owens filed a grievance, contending that the team was violating the CBA by deactivating him for disciplinary reasons after the maximum four-game suspension had been served. The arbitrator rejected his claim, siding with the team.

The current CBA overrules that decision. Now, any week in which the player is deactivated for disciplinary reasons, even if he is paid, counts against the four-week maximum. Why does this matter? Because Haynesworth was inactive last week against the Giants. The Redskins have offered various explanations for the decision not to activate him. Haynesworth will likely make the case that the deactivation was disciplinary – that is, that he was being punished. If the arbitrator agrees, then he has already suffered one week of punishment, and the longest suspension the Redskins can impose on him for conduct detrimental is three weeks, not four. In that case, he will get one game check back.

I am not here arguing the merits of either the decision to suspend Haynesworth or the decision to sign him in the first place. I am simply offering a reading of the language and history of the CBA, to suggest that Haynesworth might have a reasonable argument that the Redskins are in violation.

By Stephen L. Carter  | December 7, 2010; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins, Stephen L. Carter  
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Does the CBA discuss how we can get rid of the owner?

Posted by: Leeguru | December 7, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't they just cut him and be done with it?

Posted by: Tyler20 | December 7, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

It is not a bright spot in unions that they provide extra compensation to people who have acted irresponsibly and selfishly. Unions were intended to protect the abused and disenfranchised -- that most certainly does not include people who get paid one hundred million dollars to play a sport.

Posted by: unclelonghair | December 8, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for explaining the legal terms. However I do not believe that the arbitrator will agree with Haynesworth's grievance. It's clear that the reason Shanahan deactivated Haynesworth was because he didn't practice at all on Friday due to unspecified illness in which Haynesworth has yet to disclose.

Posted by: RedCherokee | December 8, 2010 2:13 AM | Report abuse

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