With most of the attention focusing on the storm that’s bearing down on the East Coast, the legal storm fueled by the bounty case still won’t go away. In Louisiana, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed his final legal brief in support of the effort to oust former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as the new bounty appeal hearing officer.
The brief, a copy of which PFT has obtained, doesn’t contain anything new from a legal or factual standpoint. The players continue to believe that Tagliabue has a conflict of interest via his employment with the league’s primary outside law firm, his direct ongoing employment with the league, and his possible status as a witness. The NFL believes that the labor deal gives Commissioner Roger Goodell the ability to hand the baton to Taliabue, and that the league has the ability to waive any potential conflicts of interest Tagliabue may have.
The larger question, as one league source posed it recently, is why the players weren’t willing to try their luck with Tagliabue? He’s regarded as someone who would be fair, and who wouldn’t feel compelled to agree with Goodell.
But as another source put it, “fair” is a relative term. “I personally think he would be as fair as he could be,” the source said, “but the question is how fair is that and is that really impartial. Is he capable of that given his position?”
Even though the NFLPA has agreed to allow the Commissioner or his designee to handle these appeals, federal law entitles both sides to an impartial arbitrator. It will be for Judge Helen Berrigan to decide whether Tagliabue fits that description, given his connection to the NFL and the law firm of Covington & Burling.