The hint De Smith dropped during Friday’s PFT Live quickly has become a reality.
The NFLPA has asked the NFL to re-start the bounty investigation, from scratch. The request came in a letter from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a copy of which PFT has obtained.
The letter calls the investigation “unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete.” Smith also points to witnesses who have “clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information they provided to NFL investigators and knowingly misrepresented the facts surrounding this investigation.” In support of the latter contention, Smith points to comments from Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, comments from Mike Ornstein to PFT, and the 2011 email from Ornstein to the Saints regarding a supposed bounty on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Smith also identifies multiple pieces of what he calls “other extremely specious ‘evidence.'” Specifically, Smith cites the transcribed notes reflecting apparent bounty commitments in advance of the 2009 NFC title game, which were introduced as evidence without producing the original handwritten notes or identifying the person who created them. The notes reveal that Vitt offered $5,000 to the “QB Out pool,” something for which he never was accused or suspected. Those same notes are now being used as one of the key pieces of evidence against Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, and Will Smith.
Smith also calls the use of the subtitled sideline video from the 2009 NFC title game “particularly disturbing,” and that the claim Anthony Hargrove said, “Bobby, give me my money” isn’t accurate.
The letter contends that the persons handling the presentation of the evidence “egregiously failed” Goodell, “because they did not present a full and complete account of the entirety of the testimony and information they received.”
“When journalists and fans publicly question the process it reflects poorly upon the stewards of the game,” Smith writes. “Our players, management and fans are entitled to a process that adheres to a standard beyond your interpretations of the bare minimum requirements of the CBA; they are entitled to believe in the fairness of both the process and the people entrusted to uphold it.”
Smith also touches on a point he raised during PFT Live. He says that the league initially painted the players as a “gang” that “targeted specific players for injury.” Smith contends that the more carefully-worded discipline letters didn’t use terms like “bounty” or “pay to injure.” (Actually, the letters to the four players do indeed mention the term “bounty” and “bounties,” but never “pay to injure,” which further highlights the extent to which semantics has infected this process.)
“This investigation unfairly painted players with a very broad, disparaging brush and has thrown the integrity of the process under the CBA into question,” Smith concludes. “As a fellow steward of this game, and wholly apart from the union’s and the players’ legal objections, in light of these retractions and contradictions that have come to your recent attention, I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a ‘pay to injure’ scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings.”
It never hurts to ask, but it’s highly unlikely that the league will rip up the file and start over. Goodell has articulated his position too strongly to abandon it now.
So look for the NFL to keep circling the wagons — and look for the NFLPA to keep firing arrows. In the end, someone who wears black not as a fashion statement but as a job requirement will be sorting it all out.
And that’s probably the real purpose of this letter. Apart from the P.R. benefit of accusing the NFL of conducting a shoddy investigation, the summary of the events will be another piece of evidence that may sway a judge to scrap the suspensions.