SBD/October 24, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Moves To Prevent Tagliabue From Hearing Appeals, Sends Personal Letter

Tagliabue still works for Covington & Burling, the law firm representing the NFL
The NFLPA today will file a motion in Louisiana federal court asking Judge Helen Berrigan to prevent former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue from presiding over an appeal of the bounty suspensions of four former and current Saints players. The court posted the results of a status conference held yesterday in the NFLPA’s lawsuit against the NFL over the suspensions. The post said the NFLPA has until today to file its recusal motion, with the NFL response due Friday, and the union response to that Oct. 29. The hearing before Tagliabue is scheduled for Oct. 30. The union is apparently concerned over potential conflicts of interest, as Tagliabue still works for Covington & Burling, the law firm representing the NFL. And he is current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s former boss. The union has blasted Goodell over his role in the process. Goodell already turned down one appeal, but an arbitration panel sent the issue back to him for clarification. He issued revised suspensions, and the players appealed again. Last week he announced he would recuse himself and appointed Tagliabue instead. The CBA gives Goodell near unlimited power over issues defined as conduct detrimental to the game, so he was under no obligation to step aside. The players argue that under the CBA and labor law they are due a fair process, which they contend has not occurred. Berrigan during previous oral arguments indicated a sympathy to that line of argument (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

LETTER OF THE LAW: USA TODAY's Mike Garafolo cites a source as saying that the NFLPA has "sent a letter to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, asking him to clarify why he is an objective, impartial arbitrator in ruling on the appeals of three of the four implicated players." The source said that the union "has not yet asked Tagliabue to recuse himself as Roger Goodell's appointed arbitrator" (USA TODAY, 10/24).
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