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NFL declares victory, retreats

Goodell AP

In an earlier item analyzing the ultimate outcome of the bounty suspensions imposed on quartet of players, we pointed out that all parties will declare victory.

The NFL already has.

Appended to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello’s stream of tweetiousness summarizing the ruling from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is the league’s statement in response to the ruling.

“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters,” Aiello said.  “This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.  The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league.  Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”

That’s factually correct, but the players had to fight and scratch and claw for due process, overcoming a flawed internal investigation effort that at times seems to be more concerned with P.R. than fairness and eventually forcing fairness only via an aggressive assault mounted by the players and the NFLPA in federal court.

So, yes, the system works.  As long as the players have access to good lawyers who have the intelligence, the creativity, and the will to push back hard against the efforts of the league to do what the league wants to do.

The points contained in the league’s statement were all made at the moment Goodell levied and upheld a variety of suspensions against non-players.  The last six months have been about trying to impose punishment on players who were merely doing what they were told to do and/or what they were never told by anyone they couldn’t do.

Regardless of the specific facts, this case proves that there are real limits to the otherwise seemingly unlimited power of the office of Commissioner.  As a result, the victors aren’t simply the four players who won’t be suspended but all current and future players who now have further protection against unwarranted or unfair discipline from the league office.

If that’s a win for the league, we’d hate to see what a loss looks like.

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35 Responses to “NFL declares victory, retreats”
  1. logicalvoicesays says: Dec 11, 2012 2:18 PM

    Paul Tagliabue is the greatest commish to ever breathe in Sports.

  2. RavenzGunnerz says: Dec 11, 2012 2:18 PM

    Clever headline.

  3. granadafan says: Dec 11, 2012 2:20 PM

    No one won.

  4. kattykathy says: Dec 11, 2012 2:20 PM

    It’s amazing how quickly the league was able to come out with a carefully crafted statement declaring victory so soon after the announcement by Tags.

    Surely one would not think that Tags and the league had advance knowledge of this carefully worded decision by Tags ?????
    It seems so very predetermined to have such a legally worded decision come so very soon before a legally worded statement of victory???

    Must be coincidence, cause we all know Goodell and the league would N E V E R do anything shady to advance their agenda

  5. kenstabler says: Dec 11, 2012 2:23 PM

    Fire the bum, GODDELL, he is a cancer to the game. No more lawyers in charge of the NFL, get football people with lawyers to back them up.

  6. bigjdve says: Dec 11, 2012 2:23 PM

    To me it looks like a stalemate.

    The argument that the players totally beholden to their coaches is a joke. They have the ability to not do things that are against the rules, and they do that all the time.

    If it were true, it would mean that they players were all a bunch of pansies that can’t think for themselves, and just dumb tools.

    Yeah – I see them really being that, they talk about how they are partners, then the need to act like it, not – “oh, they told me what to do, and I had no choice”. That sounds an awful lot like an employee to me.

    Tags – just said they were guilty, but they aren’t men enough to be able to think for themselves. Yeah – that was a real win for the players.

  7. whoisthatteam says: Dec 11, 2012 2:24 PM

    Also incorrect is the statement that the CBA greivence arbitrators, cba appeals panel and Tags found that there was a bounty program in place. Those appeals were all for procedural issues and godell overstepping his powers. The only person to find existence of a non existent bounty program was godell.

  8. macbull says: Dec 11, 2012 2:25 PM

    But this case is not over…

    Vilma’s defamation lawsuit goes forward…unless the NFL admits they were wrong and settles the suit for a substantial sum of money.

    In all honesty, I hope Vilma and his lawyers continue to pursue the truth, deposing Roger Goodell, under oath, in the process.

    Roger Goodell is the NFL owner’s problem…they hired the guy…they should fire the guy!

  9. brenenostler says: Dec 11, 2012 2:27 PM

    Now he should suspend the players for lying about the bounty system.

  10. bergencountyjc says: Dec 11, 2012 2:27 PM

    Should have just settled their differences in the octagon. Better alternative than the pro bowl.

  11. thefirstsmilergrogan says: Dec 11, 2012 2:32 PM

    goodell overplayed his hand wildly. same results could have been obtained without making the league look like big liars. if one looks at the replacement reg saga, the same could be said.

    goodell has no credibility with anyone; how could he?

  12. bgrab1 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:33 PM

    The league ruined the Saints season regardless of what tags ruled with the overturning of the Suspensions. Basically there was no smoking gun, no evidence, no 50,000 pages etc etc. It was all biter hate towards the team that destroyed Rogers dream of Manning vs Farve. Roger got his information from Brad Childress and a disgruntled fired Saints ex head coach that got a fake Super Bowl ring from the Saints. It was all made up. All seven months of it. Now that the Saints season is ruined and the coaches contract has been eliminated, draft picks taken away and fans left still wanting justice by the thankless tone of Tagliabeau’s statement that he feels there still was a bounty program. Full steam ahead with the lawsuits please! I want NFL blood over this!

  13. rcunningham says: Dec 11, 2012 2:33 PM

    I’m a little too lazy to read through all these legal details, what exactly is Tagliabue’s role in this thing? The dude hasn’t been commissioner since 06.

  14. santolonius says: Dec 11, 2012 2:39 PM

    i’d be curious to hear florio’s take on how this ruling affects the three million plus concussion lawsuits that have been filed. the whole bounty punishment seemed like it was contrived from the get-go to establish a precedent of players’ shared responsibility for safety – along with an aggressive league stance on safety. but if Tags is saying that players can never be expected to question coaches, does that not strengthen the legal argument that injured players in the past were helpless if and when they were rushed by coaches back onto the field at risk to their health?

  15. wlubake says: Dec 11, 2012 2:40 PM

    “The last six months have been about trying to impose punishment on players who were merely doing what they were told to do and/or what they were never told by anyone they couldn’t do.”

    Are you serious?! These are grown men. If my boss told me to go break the leg of opposing counsel on a case I’m working, I’d tell him no. And no one has to tell me that doing so is not okay.

    These guys threw around money for potentially shortening the careers of other players. The union should be having them drawn and quartered, not helping them fight the suspensions.

  16. wlubake says: Dec 11, 2012 2:43 PM

    @thefirstmilergrogan

    Goodell has credibility with the owners, who he reports to. In the end, he’s doing his job to advance the interests of the league as determined by the owners. He’s not doing any of this for his own benefit, short of a salary.

  17. hor2012 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:45 PM

    bgrab1
    I’m with you a 100 % if there had been money that changed hands then JV,WS, SF would all have been suspended. I don’t want it to end now. Hell. take it all the way to the superbowl. Because; RG caused us our season for nothing

  18. usmutts says: Dec 11, 2012 2:48 PM

    rcunningham,

    Tagliabue and his law firm represent the NFL, and thus Goodell, in various legal matters. So Goodell picked his on lawyer to decide whether he ( Goodell ) or the players were right in this bounty case. If Goodell had decided that Goodell was wrong, then he would be subjecting his own client to legal liability for defaming Vilma. So, of course, Tabliabue issued a judgment that – surprise! – exonerates Goodell, his own client.

    Got it?

    See why Saints fans have been arguing all along that Goodell is basically evil?

  19. tbtrojan says: Dec 11, 2012 2:55 PM

    Why are so many saying the Saints season was ruined for nothing and that Goodell has been proven to be a liar?
    Comments from Tags…
    “Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct” in other words the Saints did some shifty stuff.
    “My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines.” in other words Goodell did have proof BUT Roger is also power mad.

    All this shows is there was something in place but Goodell messed up big time while trying to feed his power driven ego. It’s just more proof that Goodell is not a fair and just person, he’s not got a personality suitable for the role he’s in.
    I never remember Tags being in the spotlight as much as Goodell, the smarmy git thrust himself into the spotlight and at times seems to come over as if he thinks he’s bigger/more important than the game.

  20. eventhorizon04 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:56 PM

    Tagliabue “Everybody was right, nobody gets punished.”

  21. kenstabler says: Dec 11, 2012 3:09 PM

    He had to bring back his former boss to save his arse, shows that he knew he was wrong.

  22. packhawk04 says: Dec 11, 2012 3:15 PM

    Goodell ruined the saints season!

    Yeah, that is easier for saints fans to say other than…

    Our defense broke the record for consecutive games allowing 400 plus yards of offense, and we lose unless brees plays the perfect game. We’re not a good team.

    Much easier to blame goodell.

  23. mullman76 says: Dec 11, 2012 3:16 PM

    The brutal thing is- the Saints will never get this season back.

    The NFL (Rooney, Mara, Kraft) ruined their season and there is no compensation or resolution that can ever change that fact.

  24. seahawks4alltime says: Dec 11, 2012 3:23 PM

    “Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”

    Just because they wrote the sentence down, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

  25. wlubake says: Dec 11, 2012 3:35 PM

    @usmutts

    I’ve seen it thrown around that Goodell “just has it out for the Saints”. And “Goodell is evil”. My big question is why? Why would he single out the Saints? Why would he just pick on them to the benefit of other teams? It doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is that his actions would only be in his best interest if he felt (1) there was significant evidence to show not only a bounty system, but an effort to conceal it, (2) the integrity of the league was endangered, or (3) both.

    Otherwise, why get involved? This tin foil hat stuff doesn’t hold up to simple logic.

  26. daknight93 says: Dec 11, 2012 3:44 PM

    Saints season is over…of course goodell feels he accomplished eliminating them from being competitive and boom! Mission accomplished saints are done this year..plan worked to perfection

  27. eustus says: Dec 11, 2012 3:58 PM

    Goodell is the Commissioner the “new school” owners want.

    Tagliabue is the Commissioner the league needs.

    This entire sordid, ugly episode and Tagliabue’s delicate handling of it is exactly why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

  28. snikerbotloot says: Dec 11, 2012 4:12 PM

    You just can’t deny that losing Sean Payton and having a musical chair with your interim head coaches really affected the dynamic of that team.

  29. leftcoaststeel says: Dec 11, 2012 4:19 PM

    I wish I had my mentor, former boss and biggest supporter to back up all of my worst decision too! Yeah that would be great! …just saying

  30. leftcoaststeel says: Dec 11, 2012 4:21 PM

    I wish I had my mentor, former boss and biggest supporter to back up all of my worst decision(s) too! Yeah that would be great! …just saying

  31. kchoya says: Dec 11, 2012 5:30 PM

    @kenstabler says: “Fire the bum, GODDELL, he is a cancer to the game. No more lawyers in charge of the NFL, get football people with lawyers to back them up.”

    —–

    You do realize that Paul Tagliabue is a lawyer and that Roger Goodell is not?

    But other than that, nice post.

  32. mrpowers88 says: Dec 11, 2012 6:31 PM

    “The last six months have been about trying to impose punishment on players who were merely doing what they were told to do and/or what they were never told by anyone they couldn’t do.”

    Well if that’s the case, how about they finish this like in “A Few Good Men”? They found the players innocent of the bounty system, now dishonoarably discharge them for conduct unbecoming a professional football player.

  33. effjohntaylornorelation says: Dec 11, 2012 7:01 PM

    I guess I don’t understand how a union can agree to a CBA and then fight the validity of the agreement they ratified every step of the way. What’s the point of the CBA?

  34. mumaniac1 says: Dec 11, 2012 8:32 PM

    “Fire the bum, GODDELL, he is a cancer to the game. No more lawyers in charge of the NFL, get football people with lawyers to back them up.”

    Goodell is not a lawyer, Tagliabue is. Tagliabue was a much better commissioner than Goodell could ever dream of being. Maybe the prerequisite to become a commissioner should be to be a lawyer.

  35. dannybuggs says: Dec 11, 2012 9:54 PM

    “The last six months have been about trying to impose punishment on players who were merely doing what they were told to do and/or what they were never told by anyone they couldn’t do.”

    Seriously? You think Vilma slapped $10,000 down on the table because Gregg Williams told him to and Vilma didn’t think he had a choice? Do you think Vilma really needed to be told that he shouldn’t deliberately try to injure another player? At what point in his life does Vilma become responsible for his own actions?

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