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NFLPA Says Roger Goodell Should Not Determine Player Penalties For Bounty Scandal

NFLPA Says Roger Goodell Should Not Determine Player Penalties For Bounty Scandal

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NFLPA's grievance didn't deny bounty, but attacked the format of NFL's investigation
The NFLPA “launched a multifaceted pushback” Friday against the NFL’s suspension of four players for their involvement in an alleged Saints bounty scheme, according to James Varney of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The union filed a grievance with the league, “broadly criticizing the scope and format of its investigation.” The grievance “didn’t dwell on the facts underlying the NFL’s accusation that Saints defenders engaged in deliberately injurious play" from '09-11, but the motion "hinged on the union’s argument that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shouldn’t be the person making these decisions.” At no point does the grievance “specifically refute the league’s case that Saints coaches and players ran a pay-for-performance scheme.” In addition, the NFLPA “stepped up its assault against the format of the league’s investigation, which it considers suspiciously one-sided.” League sources said that the NFL never interviewed Saints LB Jonathan Vilma or DE Will Smith when “presumably the NFL was seeking information and hadn’t formed an opinion on what happened in New Orleans” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/5).

FIRST OF MANY STEPS: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, “The significant thing is that the NFLPA has decided to push back hard against Goodell. This is likely just the first of many steps. If the players don’t get satisfaction from Goodell or [independent arbitrator Stephen] Burbank, the next step would be to take it into court and seek injunctions” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/6). In New Orleans, John DeShazier wrote it would have been “a heck of a lot better if the union had shown this kind of courage BEFORE it entered its new collective bargaining agreement with the owners last summer.” It would have been "wonderful if the NFL Players Association more effectively had sought to derail Goodell’s one-man judicial system train when the perfect opportunity to do so presented itself at the bargaining table, rather than now, when it appears they’re scrambling to sidestep the very agreement into which they entered” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/6).

KEY PIECE OF EVIDENCE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote, “One of the most damning bits of evidence in the NFL’s case … turns out came via” the NFLPA. The union “directly submitted to the league an April 17 statement" from Packers DE Anthony Hargrove. The league indicated that Hargrove "acknowledged lying to investigators, obstructing the NFL’s inquiry and being involved in the bounty system," and the union's "cooperation in Hargrove’s admission wasn’t previously public.” However, the NFLPA “pushed forward with a fight to defend the players that common sense and the NFL says were involved in a system designed to injure fellow union members.” Wetzel added, “In other words, the NFLPA is banking on technicalities. That’s technicalities to save players involved in a scandal that hinges on injuring other players and potentially ending their ability to make a living playing football. You know, the stuff you’d think a labor union would care about.” Wetzel added that the NFLPA “have only themselves to blame” for agreeing to a new CBA that is “ironclad enough that the union didn’t go to court to seek relief against the league.” Instead, the union filed a grievance with Burbank (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/5). 

GIVE INFORMATION TO UNION: PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote, “At some point, the NFL must disclose all the information to the NFLPA, including the precise basis for the factual conclusions the league has reached." It is "not enough to provide summaries of evidence.” Florio added, “That’s not to say the players are entitled to the full range of Constitutional rights, including the right to confront accusers. After all, this is a private, quasi-judicial process involvement employment rights” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/6). SI.com’s Peter King writes, "I don't believe the league shared nothing, which the union would have us believe." King: "But I also don’t believe the league has shared nearly enough evidence to convince anyone that Vilma deserves to be banned for a year.” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that some players told him “they thought now that the 10-year labor deal signed last summer meant the two sides would finally be at peace.” King notes that is not going to happen, and Smith “knows it, and now the league knows it” (SI.com, 5/7).

ANIMOSITY RETURNS: SI.com’s Don Banks wrote, “The league and its players may have a much-celebrated CBA in place, but that’s about all they’re in agreement over these days. If you thought the matter of increased player safety would be a uniting cause, one that bred commonality between the NFL and NFLPA, think again.” Banks added it is "hard at this point to not see the issue as having merely become just another proxy war for last year’s labor fight,” as the two sides are “back to trench warfare.” Banks wrote institutional change "of this level is never easy," but the players union "needs to embrace every aspect of these changes and support them, even if it makes the NFLPA momentarily uncomfortable to not fight tooth and nail for the four players in New Orleans who have been deemed to deserve suspensions for their role in the bounty program” (SI.com, 5/5).

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