Harold Henderson is back in the headlines.
The NFL-appointed arbitrator oversaw the appeal of Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension stemming from a 2014 domestic violence incident and, on Friday, announced in tandem with the league that the Dallas Cowboys defensive end’s punishment would be reduced to just four games.
This isn’t the first time Henderson has been at the crux of NFL news and is not even the first time he’s faced critics regarding the league’s stand on domestic violence. Here’s what you need to know about Henderson:
1. Henderson Served as the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Labor Relations & Chairman of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee
Henderson joined the NFL in 1991 and served as the NFL Executive Vice President for Labor Relations and Chairman of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee for 16 years. In that time, he was responsible for all aspects of the League’s player and labor relations. Following those roles, Henderson took over as Executive Vice President for Player Development, focusing on programs for players as well as drug, alcohol, steroid and conduct policies. Henderson also helped create the NFL’s benefit policies for current and former players.
Henderson received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State and is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He also completed the Senior Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1988.
2. He Was the Appeal Arbitrator of Adrian Peterson’s Appeal
Henderson first broke onto the national scene last year when he was appointed, by Roger Goodell, as the arbitrator on Adrian Peterson’s appeal of a league suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Henderson denied Peterson’s appeal, upholding the league’s initial ruling, and saying that the process surrounding the Minnesota Viking’s original suspension had been fair. He released a statement, saying that, “(Peterson) 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 that “the facts in this appeal are uncontested,” and that Peterson’s “public comments do not reflect remorse or appreciation for the seriousness of his actions.”
However, Henderson’s decision was, ultimately, altered when, in February, federal judge David Doty ruled in favor of the NFLPA’s motion to end Peterson’s suspension and returned the decision back to arbitration. The two sides never met, however, because the NFL reinstated Peterson prior to that.
3. The NFL Players Association Has Questioned Henderson’s Neutrality
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Henderson as the lead arbitrator on the controversial Adrian Peterson case last year, the NFL Players Association was quick to voice its concerns. The NFLPA released a statement questioning Henderson’s ability to see the case from an un-biased angle after years as a top NFL executive:
A long-time NFL Executive and current legal consultant cannot, by definition, be a neutral arbitrator.
The NFL had appointed Hendrson despite requests from the NFLPA for a neutral third-party arbitrator. The move was particularly questionable considering the league had done just that during the Ray Rice case, appointing U.S. Judge Barbara Jones. However Jones required Goodell to testify during the appeal, much to the commissioner’s objections.
4. He Was Appointed as Arbitrator for Greg Hardy’s Appeal in May
Goodell once again called on Henderson earlier this year when, after waiving his right to hear the appeal, appointed the former league exec as the arbitrator on the Greg Hardy case.
FOX Sports Mike Garafolo reported that the move was particularly significant after Henderson’s very public backing of the league when he heard Adrian Peterson’s appeal in 2014.
5. Henderson Called Hardy’s 10-Game Suspension ‘Simply Too Much’
After initial reports saw Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension reduced to four on Friday afternoon, Henderson released a public statement, explaining his decision. Although Henderson found that Goodell was “within his authority” to find that the former Carolina Panthers standout had violated the NFL Personal Conduct Policy, he could not uphold the original length of the suspension.
10 games is simply too much, in my view, of an increase over prior cases without notice such as was done last year, when the ‘baseline’ for discipline in domestic violence or sexual assault cases was announced as a six-game suspension. Therefore, the discipline of Mr. Hardy hereby is modified to a suspension of four games; all other terms of the discipline letter remain in place.
Editor’s note: Heavy’s partners at DraftKings are gearing up for another football season. Sign up now with DraftKings promo code HEAVY and get a $600 deposit bonus with no season-long commitment.