If you’ve been following the eternal question of whether or not bounties existed in New Orleans–and if you’re reading this you have been, because it’s a story that’s impossible to ignore if you’re a fan of NFL football–then you’re abundantly aware of the players’ primary complaint phrased so eloquently a few weeks ago by Jonathan Vilma.
They’re sort of OK with commissioner Roger Goodell being the judge, A.K.A the guy who generally makes disciplinary decisions. But they’re only cool with that for on-field acts, and they’re really not cool with his all-seeing powers in this specific instance, maintaining that if Goodell is to be the judge, then he definitely shouldn’t also be the jury and executioner.
In yet another move that should surprise absolutely no one, the NFLPA filed a lawsuit today in federal court on behalf of Scott Fujita, Will Smith, and Anthony Hargrove, and Goodell’s dictator powers remain the primary point of contention. Vilma, the most heavily-punished member of the alleged bounty bang bros, has filed his own separate lawsuit.
Goodell’s multi-faceted role during the disciplinary process and his inability to be impartial while making his rulings is central to the wording of the lawsuit and its mission. So please, haul out your broken record player, and give this a spin…
A seminal question for this court is whether the NFL collective bargaining agreement … granted the commissioner, when serving as an arbitrator, the authority to disregard the essence of the parties’ agreement, to conduct proceedings that are fundamentally unfair, and to act with evident bias and without jurisdiction. The answer, under governing case law, is clearly ‘no.’
Yes, that certainly seems to be the fundamental question here, and although Goodell’s flawed bounty evidence can and should be heavily scrutinized (we’re still waiting for the truth, and we have no idea if there really was a bounty program), his function as determined by the CBA has been pretty clear. He’s the authority that hears appeals on the rulings he makes, and while that is indeed a process that’s fractured beyond comprehension, it’s one that was agreed on by the players during the lockout standoff that was mercifully reaching its conclusion last year around this time.
Also included is the claim that Goodell’s process was unfair and unjust, saying that he failed to provide the players with the proper evidence to defend themselves against, or “anything resembling the fairness mandated by the CBA and governing industrial due process law.”
All along we’ve been told repeatedly that Goodell makes rulings and hears the appeals on those rulings under the new CBA, leaving the players with little right to complain because they signed off on this arrangement after a lengthy dispute. So now one year into a ten-year CBA sweeping changes are needed because Goodell’s role that was mutually agreed on isn’t favorable for the players?
Previously the players argued that any alleged bounty conduct falls under a salary cap violation, and the appeals should therefore be heard by an independent arbitrator. That notion was swatted away, with an arbitrator (an arbitrator ruling on arbitration? Please adjust your head) ruling that a bounty still falls under the umbrella of “conduct detrimental” and is therefore a behavioral issue that’s subject to Goodell’s heavy hammer.
The NFLPA is still claiming that the bounty cases are rare cases and deserve the required special treatment by an independent authority who wasn’t directly involved in the process. Hey, no argument here, but you, the fine upstanding players, gave Goodell his powers. Whining retroactively hasn’t worked yet, and it seems unlikely to work now.