The most recent legal brief filed by the NFLPA in support of its effort to vacate the re-issued bounty suspensions contains a couple of surprises.
First, and as MDS pointed out earlier tonight, the document discloses an ESPN segment from 1996 called “Smash for Cash,” in which the league condoned the exchange of money among players for “big plays” and “big hits.” (We’d love to know how the NFLPA became aware of the segment — and the NFL surely would love to know who if anyone at its broadcast partner in Bristol blew the whistle to the union.)
Second, the NFLPA points out that Judge Helen Berrigan has “made clear” that she will “promptly rule” on the pending motions to vacate the suspensions after Commissioner Roger Goodell issues a final internal ruling on the suspensions.
With the hearing before Goodell set for Tuesday, October 23, and a decision from Goodell certain to come promptly thereafter, a ruling will need to be made quickly by the federal court — especially if Goodell upholds the suspension on a Friday or a Saturday, with games set for Sunday.
But even though the NFLPA points out that the federal court will rule on the motions after Goodell issues a decision, the NFLPA continues to push the notion that the federal court can remove Goodell as the arbitrator pre-emptively. The union argues that, if the partiality of the arbitrator is sufficiently clear, there’s no reason to let the arbitrator issue the ruling. In support of that position, the NFLPA cites precedent involving Julius Erving and the ABA’s Virginia Squires and Joe Morris and the New York Giants.
Regardless of how everything turns out, it’s apparent that Judge Berrigan plans to move quickly. Whether a decision comes before or after Goodell issues his final ruling on the suspensions, a decision will be coming quickly from a judge who managed to avoid having to make a decision the last time Goodell issued a final ruling on the suspensions.