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NFLPA asks Tagliabue to address potential conflicts

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On Sunday morning, we reported that the NFLPA is plotting an attack on the appointment of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as the arbitrator in the bounty appeal hearing involving Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove.  The attack has been launched.

PFT has learned that the NFLPA has asked Tagliabue to address concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest.  The request came in a letter sent directly to Tagliabue, with a copy sent to the NFL.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA has not published the letter and has no plans to do so.

The NFLPA has not specifically asked Tagliabue to step aside, yet.  But the NFLPA’s questions and other statements contained in the letter make it clear that the NFLPA wants Tagliabue to step aside.  The union has asked for a response within one business day (i.e., by today), before a final decision is made on filing a formal request for recusal.

The questions, we’re told, arise from the fact that Tagliabue works for Covington & Burling, the law firm that represents the NFL in the bounty litigation.  Also, and as we explained on Sunday, the NFLPA regards Tagliabue as a potential witness in the overall process, given that the NFL condoned the “Smash for Cash” programs of the 1990s, when he served as the Commissioner.

The letter was sent to Tagliabue on Monday.  There have been no conference calls or meetings with Tagliabue regarding the October 30 hearing, which would possibly shed light on Tagliabue’s overall mindset.  If, for example, he won’t insist on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams or former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo testifying at the hearing, the objections would only intensify.

UPDATE 10:13 a.m. ET:  The initial report from CBSSports.com indicated that the NFLPA has asked Tagliabue to recuse himself, based on potential conflicts of interest.  When we confirmed the sending of a letter to Tagliabue regarding conflicts of interest, the request for recusal wasn’t specifically discussed.  A source with knowledge of the letter has emphasized to PFT that no such request has been made yet, and that reports of a request for recusal are erroneous.  We hope to obtain a copy of the letter soon, so that the situation can be fully clarified.  We apologize for the confusion.

UPDATE 10:28 a.m. ET:  After reviewing the letter, there is no specific request for recusal made.  But the language of the letter is strong enough to make the NFLPA’s position clear.  They want him out.  Also, the request was made only on behalf of Smith, Fujita, and Hargrove.  Vilma is not mentioned, because he is separately represented by Peter Ginsberg.

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42 Responses to “NFLPA asks Tagliabue to address potential conflicts”
  1. thecashcartel says: Oct 23, 2012 10:06 AM

    What a freakin mess…Goodell trying to pull another fast on

  2. cnyphinfan says: Oct 23, 2012 10:07 AM

    let’s pay a fine and be done with it……..neither Vilma nor Fujita will probably be impact players again……….and the league has made its point…….

  3. wtfpft says: Oct 23, 2012 10:08 AM

    For them to appoint Tagliabue is an absolute joke. Can’t think of a more biased man to ask then him.

  4. medtxpack says: Oct 23, 2012 10:08 AM

    what does the NFLPA want!!!!!! who then? who? a judge, nahhhhhh

  5. tommysaint1 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:10 AM

    Goodell knows he is screwed. He keeps trying to satisfy the players with these blatantly bias moves. The NFLPA is looking for a fair judgement and Goodell continues to show his abuse of power in different forms. All he has shown is that he was biased (concussion lawsuits) and misinformed (poor investigation) but instead of admitting that and moving on, he continues with his his tirade.

  6. wittersworld says: Oct 23, 2012 10:10 AM

    OMG these guys won’t quit! Let’s just let them arbitrate their own appeals…would that satisfy them? Stop playing the legal loophole game and take your punishment like a man!

  7. sbc85 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:10 AM

    This is never gonna end…………

  8. jrd8523 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:11 AM

    Smash for cash is about as relevant as someone arguing that asbestos used to be acceptable building material

  9. ridingwithnohandlebars says: Oct 23, 2012 10:12 AM

    surprised face.

  10. FinFan68 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:19 AM

    The NFLPA: We want somebody other than Goodell…but not Tagliabue. The players agreed to the CBA which gives Goodell the option to retain appeal authority or appoint whomever he chooses. Goodell did not need to step aside but he did. These guys will whine about anything. Now they want somebody else. Are they expecting the league to appoint some union hack to serve the NFLPA in this? The union will cry no matter who is picked. If they find somebody acceptable and the decision remains the same, they will still cry foul. It is ridiculous. Three players may be able to get their punishment reduced but not Vilma. Even his hand-picked judge, Berrigan, said in open court that Vilma essentially admitted to exactly what Goodell has accused him of. Just get this mess over with already. The more the NFLPA whines, the more I can’t stand these particular players.

  11. tomnickle says: Oct 23, 2012 10:19 AM

    Then there’s the most blatant conflict of interest considering it relates to human nature. Tagliabue hand picked Goodell to be his successor. Tagliabue has a vested interest in the success of Roger Goodell. If Roger Goodell is seen as a failure, Tagliabue becomes the goat who put him in the big chair.

    That’s reason enough for the appointment of Tagliabue to be scrutinized.

  12. geauxjay says: Oct 23, 2012 10:20 AM

    This is the same NFL that said that an “independent” prosecutor (Mary Jo White) said that the NFL had the case, and then it turned out that that prosecutor was actually the NFL’s prosecutor in the case.

  13. santolonius says: Oct 23, 2012 10:29 AM

    dear NFL,
    it is not automatically wrong in life to – at times – choose the path of least resistance. you should change tactics and let the bounty players and coaches off with a warning/time served. they can certainly be asked to sign a statement vowing to never participate in a bounty and promising to take maximum punishment if it can ever be proved that they broke that vow. furthermore you can have the nflpa, the owners, head coaches, and g.m.s jointly sign a letter of understanding that – for the sake of player safety – there will be no bounties tolerated ever going forward. you say the past is the past, but the future is something different. you close this ugly and distracting chapter. you change the headlines from scandal and distrust to great games, great plays, great players. what on earth do you have to lose? something to think about, right?
    xoxo
    santolonius

  14. thereisalwaysnextyear says: Oct 23, 2012 10:31 AM

    Isn’t the NFL still paying Tags MILLIONS and MILLIONS per year even now?

  15. 2sausage11 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:54 AM

    I think they want Sean Payton to hear the case

  16. miles58a says: Oct 23, 2012 11:03 AM

    FinFan68 says:
    Oct 23, 2012 10:19 AM
    The NFLPA: We want somebody other than Goodell…but not Tagliabue. The players agreed to the CBA which gives Goodell the option to retain appeal authority or appoint whomever he chooses. Goodell did not need to step aside but he did. These guys will whine about anything. Now they want somebody else. Are they expecting the league to appoint some union hack to serve the NFLPA in this? The union will cry no matter who is picked. If they find somebody acceptable and the decision remains the same, they will still cry foul. It is ridiculous. Three players may be able to get their punishment reduced but not Vilma. Even his hand-picked judge, Berrigan, said in open court that Vilma essentially admitted to exactly what Goodell has accused him of. Just get this mess over with already. The more the NFLPA whines, the more I can’t stand these particular players.

    No, all they want is a non-bias arbitrator, is that so much to ask. The NFLPA represents all players and is made up of players from all teams and they believe the Saints players are innocent. No player in the league believes they are guilty. Goodell and fans of other teams are the only ones that believe they are guilty. When I say they are not guilty I mean they did not play dirty, if you take the money out of it they did nothing wrong and that is why the players are fighting. Yea they did get caught and they do deserve a suspension but league needs to get it right. Until then they will keep fighting. Y’all keep bringing up Greg Williams statement saying it proved they did it. His statement said that he DID NOT institute a bounty program and he never put money in one but he says, yea Vilma offered $10,000. He also says he has never seen the money, now that someone you can trust.

  17. thejuddstir says: Oct 23, 2012 11:05 AM

    “The union has asked for a response within one business day (i.e., by today), before a final decision is made on filing a formal request for recusal.”
    ============================
    and Vilma, Ginsberg and the NFLPA asked for room service within the hour !

  18. thelastpieceofcheese says: Oct 23, 2012 11:11 AM

    There is nothing more terrifying than receiving an NFLPA letter.

  19. pobreezy says: Oct 23, 2012 11:17 AM

    I can’t wait for this to happen to some of your teams.
    Everyone saying the saints and the nflpa are whining, good luck finding pity when you get dragged through the mud, have your season suffer and uninformed trash talkers jump on the NFL bandwagon rubbing every new article, revelation and (even worse than that) game lost thanks to this witch hunt in your face. Trust me, it won’t be fun at all.

  20. mdd913 says: Oct 23, 2012 11:18 AM

    FinFan68 says: Oct 23, 2012 10:19 AM

    The NFLPA: We want somebody other than Goodell…but not Tagliabue. The players agreed to the CBA which gives Goodell the option to retain appeal authority or appoint whomever he chooses. Goodell did not need to step aside but he did. These guys will whine about anything. Now they want somebody else. Are they expecting the league to appoint some union hack to serve the NFLPA in this? The union will cry no matter who is picked. If they find somebody acceptable and the decision remains the same, they will still cry foul. It is ridiculous. Three players may be able to get their punishment reduced but not Vilma. Even his hand-picked judge, Berrigan, said in open court that Vilma essentially admitted to exactly what Goodell has accused him of. Just get this mess over with already. The more the NFLPA whines, the more I can’t stand these particular players.

    ————————————————

    You seriously cannot see that there is an inherent conflict of interest with Tagliabue’s appointment to this case???? Seriously???

    Personally I think Tag will rise above all the chaff and potential bias and hand down a fair ruling. But that doesn’t mean that he should’ve been appointed in the first place.

    Some of you seem to confuse “whining” and “legal loopholes” with you know, actual fairness. Our country’s system of justice is constructed around fairness, and you can talk about the CBA all you want, but at the end of the day the NFL, like any other business, has the responsibility to provide fairness to its employees. It’s very a simple concept.

  21. bigjdve says: Oct 23, 2012 11:26 AM

    Goodell has every right to judge the appeal himself, however he recused himself, and in doing that he has every right to pick who he wants to judge that appeal.

    This is what was agreed upon in the CBA. For those of you that are talking about fairness, that is why there was negotiations last year. Last year 31 teams signed the agreement that stated that this process is/was fair.

    Now a couple players are crying foul at every turn. Even if I believed them innocent, I would be starting to believe them guilty as they keep trying to change the game so to speak to favor themselves.

    This needs to be over, they need to shut up and go through the appeals process and then see where they are instead of crying about everything that hasn’t happened yet.

  22. scrp2 says: Oct 23, 2012 11:29 AM

    If you want to punish somebody reinstate Coach Payton and end his year long vacation in the Bahamas with his hot new girlfriend.

  23. sb44champs says: Oct 23, 2012 11:56 AM

    thecashcartel says:
    Oct 23, 2012 10:06 AM
    What a freakin mess…Goodell trying to pull another fast on
    =====================
    Surprise, surprise!!

  24. chrisbntx says: Oct 23, 2012 11:58 AM

    Last time I got in trouble at work I asked for an independant arbitrator to hear my case. In the end I was punished based on the very “biased” opinion of my upper managment. I know how the poor Saints players feel. I too was a victim of my boss making a decision affecting my career. What is the world coming to?

  25. kellij666 says: Oct 23, 2012 12:03 PM

    Man, Goodell is at it again. His actions have done nothing to bolster the nfl’s case. it seems more and more like he’s got something to hide. why can’t everything be above board and out in the open? he’s definitely hiding something……. he needs to go

  26. ilovefoolsball says: Oct 23, 2012 12:12 PM

    I wonder if back in March they thought it was going to be so simple:
    Send a press release to ESPN
    Get all the radio talk show hosts to blast the Saints
    Suspend the coach for an entire year and take some other coaches and the GM with him,
    Suspend the players

    all based on hearsay and no proof that anything actually took place on the field.

  27. newlydead says: Oct 23, 2012 12:13 PM

    what i think should happen is the NFL should say … ok NFLPA, you are not happy with the decision handed down my the commissioner and now you are not happy with the commissioner stepping aside and appointing someone else to over see the appeals and since both the power to hand down this decision and the right to step aside and appoint whomever he chooses to over see the process comes from the CBA that you as the NFLPA signed we are going to rip that CBA up, lock out the players and call the season …..

    then we will see how many “fans” agree with the players or if they will final realize that what is happening right now was allowed to happen when the PLAYERS, THROUGH THE NFLPA SIGNED THE CBA … it’s a simple as that. when this CBA expires then fight to take some power back but until then just play by the rules that you agreed to. I’m sure if the NFL came out and said “you know what, in the CBA we agreed to pay the players a certain percentage but we just don’t feel thats in our best interest right now so we are going to overlook that little piece of the SIGNED/SEALED/DELIVERED CBA and pay less now”

  28. willardj says: Oct 23, 2012 12:15 PM

    Tags was the best commish back in his day. Good for Goodell to get him back in the game.

  29. mdd913 says: Oct 23, 2012 12:24 PM

    bigjdve says: Oct 23, 2012 11:26 AM

    Goodell has every right to judge the appeal himself, however he recused himself, and in doing that he has every right to pick who he wants to judge that appeal.

    This is what was agreed upon in the CBA.

    —————————————————-
    The CBA is null and void if the process is deemed unfair.

    Besides that, you people keep invoking the CBA as an end run around the whole “fairness” issue. I would like you to answer this simple question: Why do you believe these players don’t deserve a fair process?

  30. robf2010 says: Oct 23, 2012 12:26 PM

    “Last time I got in trouble at work”

    Did you have a contract that is not being fulfilled for reasons only known to your boss?

  31. kozinsky says: Oct 23, 2012 12:31 PM

    I have a theory that Goodell is methodically turning his authority to punish players into a major non-revenue related CBA issue. If he’s intentionally throwing out big punishments, possibly crossing the line over the limits of his jurisdiction and then taking a hard stances during appeals in order to not only stem the tide of potential injury/safety-related lawsuits from players, but also to make players want to give major revenue-related concessions to the owners to lessen the commissioners power, then Goodell is a genius.

    If this keeps up, by the time the current CBA is up, the players may give anything to take some of the commissioners power away. And if they give up enough, the owners would do it.

  32. TxGrown says: Oct 23, 2012 12:44 PM

    “The questions, we’re told, arise from the fact that Tagliabue works for Covington & Burling, the law firm that represents the NFL in the bounty litigation.”
    =============================================================
    Enough said.

  33. bgrab1 says: Oct 23, 2012 12:46 PM

    Why is the NFL resisting having The witnesses (Williams and Cerullo) be cross examined? Why? Because then the truth might get out that all of this is a total sham frame job to make the NFL look like it cares about the players enough to go to these extremes. Hoping that the PR will help them in the concussion lawsuits. I guess they just thought the players would stand there and be falsely accused of a Bounty System that never happened. Goodell picked the wrong players to mess with. This wont be over until the court decides it is over. Goodell himself will have to testify under oath like the players already have.

  34. newlydead says: Oct 23, 2012 1:01 PM

    kozinsky says:
    Oct 23, 2012 12:31 PM
    I have a theory that Goodell is methodically turning his authority to punish players into a major non-revenue related CBA issue. If he’s intentionally throwing out big punishments, possibly crossing the line over the limits of his jurisdiction and then taking a hard stances during appeals in order to not only stem the tide of potential injury/safety-related lawsuits from players, but also to make players want to give major revenue-related concessions to the owners to lessen the commissioners power, then Goodell is a genius.

    If this keeps up, by the time the current CBA is up, the players may give anything to take some of the commissioners power away. And if they give up enough, the owners would do it.

    —————–

    this actually makes a lot of sense. i can see something like this coming out in a book that is written in about 30 years or so, one of those …”remember back in the early 2010s? let me tell you why all of that happened … “

  35. CKL says: Oct 23, 2012 1:03 PM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the players pushing this are just doing it to delay things in the court system until it’s a moot point a la the Starcaps thing why not? They still get paid while it drags out and they are mostly near the end of their careers.

  36. dadindebt6 says: Oct 23, 2012 1:06 PM

    Goodell has always said that he will never turn the protection of the NFL shield over to an outside arbitor who does not understand the nuances of the NFL brand.

    SO Goodell will not ever pick someone that does not have NFL ties and the NFLPA will not accept anyone who has NFL ties. I guess this will have to be settled by reading the agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.

    Looks like Goodell wins in that case.

  37. FinFan68 says: Oct 23, 2012 1:16 PM

    mdd…
    conflict of interest would apply to s court proceeding which this is not. it is a company disciplinary appeal. the conflict of interest issue should have been raised before agreement of cba but they did not want to give up anything in the process. the nflpa agenda is more removing goodells power without concessions than righting an injustice for these players.

  38. maddog111 says: Oct 23, 2012 1:29 PM

    santolonius says:
    Oct 23, 2012 10:29 AM
    dear NFL,
    it is not automatically wrong in life to – at times – choose the path of least resistance. you should change tactics and let the bounty players and coaches off with a warning/time served. they can certainly be asked to sign a statement vowing to never participate in a bounty and promising to take maximum punishment if it can ever be proved that they broke that vow.
    ———————————————–
    What makes you think they would honor those statements in the future? They’ve already signed documents giving Goodell the authority to hand out punishments as he saw fit, and they don’t seem to be honoring those vows.

  39. deeppurple23 says: Oct 23, 2012 1:35 PM

    It’s concerning that the NFLPA is more worried about protecting the rights of players that were suspended, then they are about trying to protect the other members of the union who could have been hurt by these guys… BTW, the smash for cash thing was a player organized system, this was a team organized system. Does anyone get the difference?

    I thought football players were MEN, take your punishment and move one, I mean really Scott your suspension was one game, could have been done and over with a long time ago, you’ve spent more money on attorneys than you would have lost for the game. And some people might still respect you, I know I don’t any more.

  40. geniusfan says: Oct 23, 2012 2:13 PM

    “let’s pay a fine and be done with it……..neither Vilma nor Fujita will probably be impact players again……….and the league has made its point…….”

    I agree. Fujita’s career is probably over and Vilma stinks. Plus the Saints are a dead end 2-4 team with almost no shot at the postseason. Nobody cares about losing teams.

  41. mdd913 says: Oct 23, 2012 4:06 PM

    conflict of interest would apply to s court proceeding which this is not

    ————————————————–

    Conflict of interest is not simply a legal term. You seem to be under the impression that the CBA allows unfairness. It does not. Otherwise none of this would have gone to court in the first place.

  42. mdd913 says: Oct 23, 2012 4:09 PM

    maddog111 says: Oct 23, 2012 1:29 PM
    What makes you think they would honor those statements in the future? They’ve already signed documents giving Goodell the authority to hand out punishments as he saw fit, and they don’t seem to be honoring those vows.

    —————————————————–

    The signed a CBA giving that power to Goodell as long as the processes were deemed fair and transparent.

    Again, please answer one question: Why do you think these players should not receive a fair proceeding?

    Answer the question please.

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