Now that Commissioner Roger Goodell has ruled on the bounty appeals, the ball is back in the players’ court. And they plan to aim it directly at Commissioner Roger Goodell.
To little surprise, the players whose suspensions became official on Tuesday will file a lawsuit challenging the ruling. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma already has. A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Saints defensive end Will Smith, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita will do the same by Thursday.
The effort will commence, as we previously have explained, with a StarCaps-style effort to block the suspensions until the litigation is resolved. The lawsuit itself will assert that Goodell lacked the requisite impartiality to serve as the arbitrator.
It’s one of the four ways that an arbitration award can be overturned in a court of law, where judges don’t substitute their own judgment but where judges ensure that the arbitrator acted fairly and properly. In this specific case, the players will point to Goodell’s public statements regarding the bounty case as proof that he made up his mind before assuming the role of judge and jury in the appeal process.
The lawsuit also will target the league’s failure to produce within 72 hours before the June 18 appeal hearing the exhibits to be introduced, based on the requirement in the CBA that all exhibits be exchanged within three days before the hearing.
Many will be inclined to fault the players and the NFLPA for taking this approach, arguing that the players should accept the process for which their union bargained under the CBA. But they bargained for a fair and impartial process; if they didn’t get it, they have every right to fight the suspensions on that basis.