The NFL officially has announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell has handed the baton to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as to the appeal hearing in the bounty cases.
The league’s full statement is right here.
The hearing will be held on October 30, at a place and time to be determined by Tagliabue.
“I have held two hearings to date,” Commissioner Goodell said in the statement, “and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players. To bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion, I have appointed former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to serve as the hearing officer for the upcoming appeals. Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.
“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process. Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”
The decision will make it harder for the players to challenge the outcome in court, given that Goodell has conclusively addressed what had been the players’ strongest argument. If, however, Tagliabue upholds the decision without adjustment, the players surely will argue that Tagliabue is merely carrying Goodell’s water.
In the coming days, it’ll be interesting to see whether Tagliabue specifically requests that certain witnesses be present for the hearing, and/or that certain documents generated through the investigation be introduced at the hearing. Whether and to what extent Tagliabue expects information at the hearing that the league previously hadn’t disclosed could demonstrate that Tagliabue plans to take a much different approach.