NFLPA Still Waiting To Meet With Goodell Over Bountygate Punishments
The NFLPA concluded its first day of its annual player rep meetings in Marco Island, Fla., yesterday by issuing a statement saying they have not received help from the NFL or the Saints in their efforts to interview Saints coaches and management as part of the union's own investigation the club's bounty program in which players were paid bonuses to knock out opponents. In a statement, the NFLPA said its leadership "looks forward to meeting with the Commissioner to discuss the League's 'Bounty' investigation...We expect the League to provide all information so that we can ensure a fair process for all who were involved." Asked to comment, NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello said in an email, "We told the union that Saints coaches and other personnel are free to speak to the union if they choose. The commissioner has stated that he asked the union several weeks ago for its recommendation on player discipline" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Goodell is “soliciting input” from the NFLPA because “he wants to hear what the NFLPA thinks, what it believes and what it recommends" ("NFL Live,” ESPN, 3/22). In N.Y., Battista and Borden note the union “would probably fight any discipline it deems overly harsh, a situation Goodell, and perhaps the union, would probably prefer to avoid” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/23). ESPN.com’s Andrew Brandt it “will be interesting to see how the NFL Players Association weighs in.” The union has “made player health and safety a top priority in recent negotiations and has harped on this theme for more than a year” (ESPN.com, 3/22).
CONGRESSIONAL INVOLVEMENT: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday that he “would chair a hearing of the Judiciary Committee on bounties in sports to determine whether federal bribery laws should be expanded to include such activities.” Durbin said, “When an injury is by design and is paid for, we’ve moved beyond any definition of sport. I’m happy that the NFL acted swiftly once a bounty program was discovered. But questions remain about what the NFL and other professional and collegiate sports organizations are doing to protect their players and the integrity of their sports.” Durbin said that reps from the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and the NCAA “will be asked to testify” (LATIMES.com, 3/22).
JUST WARMING UP: In Pittsburgh, Gene Collier writes Goodell is “just warming up.” Goodell is the commissioner “at a time in its semi-glorious history that is unlike any other.” His charge will be “viciously difficult ... to reposition the most successful entertainment entity in sports history into something that is clearly not about hurting people.” This is while “the marketing department (e.g. the networks) relentlessly promotes the worst of the NFL's violence at every opportunity” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/23). In DC, Thomas Boswell writes, “The NFL is in a fight for its soul, or maybe for its life. And it knows it. We won’t grasp for a decade, maybe not for a generation, just how big a problem the NFL has in the wake of its pay-for-injury bounty scandal.” He continued: “Too much safety is bad for business. Everybody knows it. ... Football is a hundred, or a thousand, times bigger than boxing was. But it’s not invulnerable -- from itself.” The NFL is “now at its crossroads.” Boswell: “Can the sport find the right rules, the improved equipment, the necessary culture change -- like the massacre of the Saints -- to create a new balance between terror and some semblance of safety and honorable play?” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/23).
FOLLOW THE LEADER: FOX SPORTS’s Mike Pereira writes, “Am I surprised at the level of punishment handed down to the Saints? No. If anything, I wouldn’t have been shocked if both the fine and the draft choices had been higher.” He added, “I really do have to hand it to Goodell.” Those who have “questioned his motives as he strives to protect players don’t know him.” It is not about “an 18-game regular season,” nor is it about the “several hundred veteran players who have sued the league claiming that the NFL failed to disclose that it has known the risks posed by sustaining concussions but didn’t do anything about it.” Pereira: “I don’t always agree with you commissioner, but I do on this one. The Saints and Rams got what they deserved” (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/23). ESPN.com's Brandt wrote, “Two themes underlie the commissioner's statements” on Wednesday. The bounty program from an internal perspective “weakens competitive balance.” From an external perspective, it “erodes public confidence in the league” (ESPN.com, 3/22). But in Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes what “we had this week from Goodell was the same form of grandstanding and overkill as the NCAA gave us in '87, even if that opinion unfairly demeans Goodell.” Galloway: "I give him much more credit than anything ever associated with the NCAA.” But the charge of “overreaction, overkill and grandstanding for headlines, lawyers and Congress still stands” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/23).
UPSET WITH THE SYSTEM: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole noted free agent TE Jeremy Shockey “continued to vent his displeasure with NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp and the league in general over accusations that he was an informant” in the Saints bounty scandal. Shockey on Thursday said that he “has not been contacted by anyone with the NFL regarding its apparent violation of league policy that whistleblowers not be identified.” Shockey, on Sapp's accusations, said, “There should be a standard for punishment, like getting suspended or fined or losing your job. If I say something about officials, the league fines me” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/22).