Some of you have wondered why I’m not convinced that the bounty players actually will meet with the Commissioner, despite multiple reports that the meetings will happen. Here’s some tangible evidence to support our theory/hypothesis/whatever.
The league has issued a bolt-from-the-blue statement of clarification regarding last Friday’s ruling from an internal appeals panel under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“In light of some confusion surrounding the ruling of the CBA Appeals Panel, it is important to understand what the panel did and did not rule,” the league says. “The panel did not overturn the suspensions and did not say Commissioner Goodell overstepped his authority.”
The league goes on to explain that the “decision asks no more than that the Commissioner clarify his earlier rulings to ensure — and to clearly state — that no part of the prior ruling was attributable to matters within Professor Burbank’s authority (salary cap violations).”
“It does not require the commissioner to take additional evidence or to ‘reweigh’ the evidence currently in the record,” the league explains. “The panel did not take issue with any findings that were made in the course of the investigation, did not exonerate anyone involved, and did not say that the Commissioner ‘overstepped his authority.’
“The panel made clear that the Commissioner had full authority to impose discipline on the players so long as the discipline was attributable to conduct detrimental to the league, rather than ‘undisclosed compensation.’ The panel asked only that he clarify that he was not relying on the “undisclosed” nature of the financial incentives in imposing the discipline. In the meantime, the panel put the suspensions on hold.”
Peter Ginsberg, lawyer for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, disagrees. Strongly.
“It is interesting and illuminating that it took the NFL almost one week to develop a publishable rationalization of the Appeals Board decision,” Ginsberg said in a statement provided to PFT. “Contrary to the NFL’s media statement, the Appeals Panel voided the suspensions — it did not ‘put the suspensions on hold,’ as the NFL now pretends. And the Appeals Board is clearly based on the conclusion that the Commissioner overstepped his jurisdiction.”
As we read the four-page summary decision from the appeals panel (a full decision has not yet been released), the panel vacated the suspensions based on the belief that it wasn’t clear that Goodell remained within the confines of his exclusive authority to impose punishment for conduct detrimental to the game. The appeals panel set the process back to square one, and the league now must go through the internal discipline and appeal process again.
There’s no reason — especially based on the league’s most recent statement — to think the NFL will handle the process any differently. Which means there’s no reason — especially based on Ginsberg’s response — for the players to meet with the Commissioner.
Which makes us even more convinced that either the meetings won’t happen at all, or that they’ll be very unproductive.