The NFLPA has wasted little time challenging the discipline imposed on four Saints players (two current, two former) by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Two separate grievances have been filed, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. PFT has obtained copies of the documentation.
In one grievance, filed under Article 43 of the labor deal, the union initially argues that Goodell lacks the authority to discipline players for conduct occurring before August 4, 2011, the date on which the current CBA was finalized. The grievance cites language releasing all players from conduct in which the players engaged before August 4, 2011.
The Article 43 grievance then argues that, as the discipline relates to any intention or effort or offer to injure opposing players, Ted Cottrell and Art Shell have authority over the appeal process, and not Goodell. Cottrell and Shell have been jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA to handle the appeals of fines or suspensions for “conduct on the playing field with respect to an opposing player or players.” The NFLPA believes that the bounty allegations fall within the scope of that clause.
The NFLPA also has filed a “System Arbitration” proceeding, arguing that allegations of payments being made to players separate and apart from their contracts fall within the authority of Special Master Stephen Burbank. This claims arises from the fact that the labor deal carves out specific types of disputes that are referred to Burbank for resolution. Burbank’s jurisdiction includes Article 14 of the CBA, which encompasses payments to players beyond their contracts (and thus beyond the salary cap).
And so, as expected, these grievances represent a threshold effort to steer the appeal process away from Goodell. One grievance focuses on the penalties from the perspective of the funding of the bounty pool, and one focuses on the penalties from the perspective of the effort to secure payment via attempts to inflict injury.