Roger Goodell Recuses Himself From Hearing Further Bounty Appeals
In a surprising move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday afternoon he had recused himself from hearing the appeal of his suspensions of four players in the Saints’ bounty scandal. Instead, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will now hear the case. “To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,” Goodell said in a statement. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”
Goodell has become a lightening rod since the original suspensions were announced in March after he found the Saints from '09-11 engaged in a pay-to-injure scheme. The players deny the accusations and argue the process has been unfair. They are also currently suing in New Orleans federal court, and one, Jonathan Vilma, filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell.
Under the CBA, Goodell was under no obligation to recuse himself, as the players had demanded. He has already ruled once on an appeal, but the players appealed that to a CBA arbitration panel, which sent it back to the commissioner for clarification. He then reissued the suspensions, slightly altered, and they are appealing again. The appeal hearing was set for Tuesday next week, but that will now be pushed back to Oct. 30, meaning the suspensions are still on hold for that time period.