Perhaps lost in the unpredictable events surrounding the appeal hearings in the Saints bounty case was the official reaction to the situation from the NFL Players Association.
Outside counsel Richard Smith questioned the fairness of the process with a 12-point critique of the league’s handling of the case, calling the investigation “sloppy,” accusing the league of launching a P.R. campaign aimed at “tarnish[ing] the reputations of players,” withholding evidence, falsely characterizing interviews, and more.
Two points specifically caught our attention.
First, Smith claims that NFL outside counsel Mary Jo White attended Monday’s hearings to “read the report of an investigation she did not conduct, but [the league] prohibited her from answering any questions from the players.” Second, Smith says that the league produced at “today’s hearing a declaration from a team advisor who said that no bounty program existed.”
As to the first point, our official position is this: Are you kidding me? White, a former prosecutor, presented the NFL’s case but was prevented from answering any obvious follow-up questions like, for example, “Why are we hearing for the first time that Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt kicked in $5,000 to the bounty pool?”
As to the second point, it’s unclear what Smith specific is referring to. But it sounds like the NFL has produced evidence that suggests there wasn’t a bounty program. We’re trying to get more information about this specific item.
Smith ultimately accuses the league of abusing its power under the labor deal, and he concludes with a statement that would seem alarming but for the various surprising developments of another crazy day in the craziest of NFL offseasons: “At a time when some question the safety and integrity of the game, the failure by those charged to act responsibly and fairly have challenged our collective faith and confidence in the league.”
If this is labor peace, I’d hate to see what labor unrest would look like.