The lawyer of former Seahawks corner Brandon Browner said Wednesday that he plans to file a lawsuit next week challenging the league’s decision to suspend Browner for a year.
The lawsuit is designed to challenge the league’s punishment for its substance-abuse policy, because Browner found himself in drug-related trouble with the NFLPA even when he was no longer playing in the league.
Peter Schaffer, Browner’s agent and lawyer, told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that he is trying to allow Browner to become a free agent on March 11 and ask that Browner remain eligible to practice and play in the league until the lawsuit is resolved.
More from Florio:
Cases attacking the arbitration process mandated by the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement typically fail due to a high standard aimed at respecting such outcomes. Browner brings to the table a unique twist. Although his latest violation of the substance-abuse policy happened while he was an employee of the NFL and a member of the NFL Players Association, Schaffer will argue that the violations placing Browner one strike away from an indefinite suspension lasting at least one year happened while he wasn’t employed by any NFL team, and while he wasn’t a member of the NFLPA.
Browner is expected to contend that the NFL has continued to subject him to random drug testing for the past eight years. He was cut by the Denver Broncos in 2006 after testing positive to marijuana as a rookie in 2005.
After being cut, he left the country to play in the Canadian Football League, making him a “former” NFL player. The league apparently didn’t see it that way, however, and Browner never stopped being pursued by the NFLPA.
USAToday used a metaphor to help summarize the events by saying, “That’s like you being fired from your job, only to be punished months later because you weren’t still adhering to the rules of the company that fired you.”
In next week’s expected lawsuit, Browner will contend that the “NFLPA never informed him of the mounting penalties and suspensions arising from his failure to submit to testing” as an NFL player, even though he wasn’t playing in the NFL, he was playing in the CFL, per Florio.
Though suing the league typically fails, Browner may actually have a case.
The lawsuit will be accompanied by an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that the NFL’s overall approach to players who chronically test positive for marijuana violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Browner is expected to argue that the NFL at a minimum views players who repeatedly violate the policy as being addicted to marijuana, and that the league’s handling of those players violates the duty to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Browner was suspended for one year in early December for his possession of marijuana. Keep in mind, the states of Washington and Colorado (where Browner played when suspended) have both legalized the use of recreational marijuana.
This lawsuit could change how the league pursues those who violate the substance-abuse policy. And it could help save Browner’s reputation and career.