A US federal judge overturned on Thursday the National Football League’s suspension of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, saying an arbitrator exceeded his authority in upholding the ban.
US district judge David Doty reinstated Peterson following his appeal of a suspension that was imposed last September when the star rusher faced charges of causing reckless or negligent injury to a child.
Peterson was banned indefinitely, and at least through April 15, after pleading no contest last November to a misdemeanor charge for whipping his four-year-old son with a tree branch.
NFL-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the sanction in December, saying the ban was allowed under tougher sanctions for players involved in domestic violence imposed by the league in August in the wake of an incident involving Baltimore running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator.
But the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) appealed that ruling, saying the incident last May came before the new rules and punishment by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could not be retroactively applied so Peterson should have been banned for no more than two games under prior policy.
The NFL says it will review the decision. It could seek a court injunction to prevent Peterson’s reinstatement.
“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.
“Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players’ rights.”
Peterson, a 29-year-old Texan, has run for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns since joining the NFL, having played only for the Vikings since his league debut in 2007.
In 2012, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, finishing nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time record for running yardage in a single NFL season.
The Vikings must now decide whether to keep Peterson or trade him. He is set to make $US12.75 million ($A16.16 million) next season.