We break from our fantasy rantings to bring you the last bountygate post that will ever appear in this space. And of course, we all know that’s a filthy lie.
Although he affirmed the factual findings from commissioner Roger Goodell and the presence of “conduct detrimental” by the players involved, Paul Tagliabue has vacated all player discipline in the bounty rulings, overturning the four suspensions. Here’s his statement that was tweeted by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello:
“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization. Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell’s findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty (on Brett Favre).”
I busted and burned my legalese glasses long ago, but here’s the rough translation I glean from that:
I , Paul Tagliabue, am fond of Roger Goodell and believe that he’s a kind person, and his gun feels very cold on my neck. Therefore, I also believe that everything he found on every player in this investigation (Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free agent Anthony Hargrove) is correct. However, they still don’t deserve historic, precedent-setting punishments, even though said evidence is really strong.
And here’s the league’s official statement:
“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”
Paint me the conspiracy theorist I am, but there’s a strong, overwhelming stench to this. The end result is that Goodell did nothing wrong with the punishment he handed down for the alleged wrongdoings of Vilma et al, and he doesn’t have to publicly or formally admit to any false judgement. Tagliabue agrees with his rulings publicly, but he’s indirectly — and very, very carefully — disagreeing by saying that although there’s strong evidence of heinous crimes against the league’s code of conduct, there shouldn’t be equally strong punishments.
It’s all pretty baffling. But hey, FOOTBALL, WEEK 15, PLAYOFFS!!!