League decides not to suspend Saints players, for now

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided not to implement, for now, the four-game suspensions imposed last year against Saints defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant for using an over-the-counter supplement known as StarCaps, which unknown to the players had been spiked with a banned substance.

In a news release, the league office explained that the suspensions “will not be enforced at the present time.”

“This situation presents several unique and narrow aspects that I believe call for us to put the good of the game ahead of questions of discipline,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the release.  “Considerations of fairness, uniform application of our policies, and competitive integrity all support deferring the suspensions at this time.  I am not prepared to treat players differently when the same conduct is involved.”

The problem is that Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, who also used StarCaps, have managed to avoid the suspensions via the assertion of legal theories arising under Minnesota statutory law.  Though there is no current impediment to the imposition of the suspensions on Grant and Smith, the concern is that different outcomes would be realized for the same behavior.

“Our primary goal is to maintain the effectiveness and integrity of our program, which has repeatedly been recognized as among the finest in all of sports,” Goodell said.  “An important part of that program has been a tradition of fairness for players and clubs, with all players knowing they are held to a common standard.   Because the Minnesota and New Orleans players committed the same violation and had their appeals resolved at the same time, I believe the appropriate step is to defer the suspensions while we pursue both our legal options and continue discussions with the NFLPA.”

The Minnesota litigation involving Kevin and Pat Williams will most likely not be resolved until after the 2009 season.  If the league wins that case, then the suspensions against all players who took StarCaps undoubtedly would be imposed.

Meanwhile, the league arguably vented some frustration over today’s outcome by throwing more stones at the union for fighting the suspensions in the first place.

“Now that the courts have rejected the NFLPA’s improper challenge to our collectively bargained program, we hope the union will join us in ensuring that these principles of fairness and uniformity are preserved,” Goodell said.  “The union’s unfortunate refusal to do so thus far has created needless uncertainty for our program.  This is an important issue not only for the NFL, but for all sports and everyone who cares about the integrity of sports competition.  This is why the other professional leagues and the USADA supported us in this case. ”

Bottom line?  Barring some type of a settlement that vacates the potential suspensions and closes the loophole on which the Vikings players relied, the fate of the Saints’ players will be tied directly to whether the lawsuit brought by the Vikings’ players prevails.

6 responses to “League decides not to suspend Saints players, for now

  1. Smart move although everyone saw this coming. There is no way the NFL would have allowed the Williams Wall to play but suspend these guys just because of differing state laws.

  2. This was the best move the league could make under the circumstances. And it’s just the right thing to do given that the two teams who are going to be affected by this are both contenders.
    Also I dunno who drafts the league’s statements but all this nut flexing with the PA has got to stop. How in the world do you expect to have a dialog with them when you use terms like “the NFLPA’s improper challenge”? That’s just gonna piss people off. Hey, we already know you guys are far away from each other on some issues. How about turning down the rhetoric a bit and seeing if you can compromise on what should be an open and shut issue. The proof is gonna be in getting the CBA done not in how many darts you can toss at each other.

  3. If the league wants fairness then they should not suspend anyone. After all only the NFL had knowledge that the supplants had been spiked and had failed to tell the players. It seems the only one at fault here is the NFL. Maybe they should suspend Goodell for four games. Now that would be a just result.

  4. I said last week that the league would most likely wait until the Williams’ litigation was completed before suspending anybody involved in the StarCaps suspensions. I said then, and still think, that it is an appropriate decision.

  5. i think this is an atrocious miscarriage of justice. the rules are plain, and the extenuating circumstances are irrelevant. those players on the saints ought to be suspended. what does minnesota law have to do with new orleans? no, just because grant and smith happen to be guilty of the same thing the minnesota guys are doesn’t mean the same rules apply. clearly, nfl rules state they should be suspended, and they have no state law that overrides that. conclusion? they should be suspended four games, starting this week.
    by the way, i’m an eagles fan.

  6. Goodell isn’t coming off very well in the PR battle that’s going on right now. The owners are going to look pretty bad if it does come down to severe labor strife. They’re coming off as just some more corporate jerks who’re trying to screw people over. Whining that two dudes found a legal loophole, refusing to open their books, and lobbing stones at Smith and the NFLPA, my sympathy is sitting solidly on the side of the players right now. If the commissioner wants to blame someone for all the vagaries and complications with the collective bargaining agreement, it seems like he should blame his predecessor, who signed a very imperfect agreement to ensure his legacy. We all are probably going to regret that decision in the end.

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