SBD/July 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Asks Court To Overturn Suspensions Of Players At Center Of Saints' Bounty Scandal

Vilma filed a separate lawsuit in June to challenge Goodell's ruling
The NFLPA this morning asked a federal court to overturn NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspensions of three players for their role in the alleged Saints bounty scandal. A fourth player, Jonathan Vilma, filed his own lawsuit last month. Goodell also is due to file a response today to Vilma’s defamation lawsuit. The crux of today’s complaint is that the NFL has not been fair in its investigation and treatment of the players, in violation of the CBA. “It would be an absurd and thus unsustainable interpretation (of the CBA) to conclude that the NFLPA granted the Commissioner the right to serve as the arbitrator for suspensions and fines of NFL players without a commitment to conducting a fair 'hearing' process,” the lawsuit states. Players were not given the right to confront witness or given exculpatory evidence, the complaint says. The NFL responded, “As in the case of Mr. Vilma's lawsuit, this is an improper attempt to litigate an issue that is committed to a collectively bargained process. There is no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining. These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades.” The NFLPA lawsuit states there is plenty of precedent to overturn an arbitration decision like this when the process was unfair. “The commissioner of a professional sports league is not exempt from these requirements when serving as an arbitrator, and courts have previously vacated arbitration awards when the commissioner fell short of the required standard of impartiality in considering a particular matter,” the lawsuit said. The NFL alleges the Saints engaged in a system that put bounties on opposing players. The lawsuit contends if there were payments, they only were for legal plays (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

GOODELL FEELS STRONGLY ABOUT THE EVIDENCE: Goodell on Tuesday upheld the suspensions, and ESPN’s John Clayton reported Goodell "felt very strong about the evidence, evidence right now that the players don’t believe in." Clayton: "He was also very poignant in his letter to the players, telling them, ‘Hey, you had opportunities to try at least to get interviews and try to do some things. It may not have been to your satisfaction,’ but it was one where they had opportunities and they didn’t do it. He was also trying to be a little defensive in that letter where he says that he didn’t take this very lightly” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/3). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche noted Goodell indicated in his letter to the players that he does have the “power to reduce or takeaway the suspensions if any evidence is provided to me that should make me change my mind." Wyche: "Once again, he asking the players, as he has done throughput this process, to try to cooperate with and try to defend themselves.” NFL Network's Mark Kriegel said Goodell is “all but begging the players to come forward” and is “trying to be evenhanded” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 7/3).
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