There’s no good reason for ongoing delay in bounty appeal rulings


As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.  In the case of the players suspended for their alleged role in the Saints bounty program, the delayed issuance of a ruling by Commissioner Roger Goodell is delaying the players’ chance to get justice of any kind.

A full 11 days after Goodell conducted a hearing at which the players’ lawyers raised procedural and jurisdictional arguments intended more for the next phase of the case than this one and offered no substantive defense of any kind, Commissioner Roger Goodell still hasn’t ruled.  And there’s no reason for the ongoing delay.

In the recent New York Times item regarding NFLPA outside counsel Richard Smith’s ongoing attack on the “Bobby, give me my money” videotape, NFL senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch reiterated the league’s position on the evidence against the players:  “The Commissioner has to look at the record he has, and the record that we have we feel very comfortable with.”

“We” is the NFL.  And the NFL necessarily includes the man who had been out in front of the P.R. campaign, like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg calling in 2008 for Giants receiver Plaxico Burress to be put in the “slammer” after shooting a bullet through his leg via an unlicensed firearm.  Unlike Bloomberg, Goodell also is the presiding judge.

And with the players offering no evidence of any kind to dispute the league’s much-touted “mosaic” of proof, there’s no reason to prolong the process.

So why hasn’t Goodell ruled?

It could be that he’s taking time not to make up his mind but to craft decision letters that will be hard to attack when the players inevitably file a lawsuit aimed at overturning his ruling.  When the ruling comes, look for the letters to be lengthy and detailed and to address in exhaustive fashion every argument the players have raised, and maybe some they haven’t.  The letters also likely will devote plenty of space to faulting the players for not cooperating with the process to which the NFLPA agreed, blaming the players for concealing from the process any evidence that supports their proclaimed innocence.

And so, unless Goodell is simply delaying his decisions to narrow the window of time the players will have to get the rulings overturned before the season begins, it’s likely that the league office is dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” multiple times over in order to best fend off what Jonathan Vilma has dubbed “Phase Two.”

Regardless, it’s no accident that 11 days have passed since the appeal hearings.  Earlier this year, Goodell needed only four days in April to reject the appeals from coach Sean Payton, G.M. Mickey Loomis, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, and the Saints.

Given that Payton and company actually presented information in their defense at the hearings, it should have taken longer to sift through those appeals.

Regardless, it’s already taken too long for the league to rule on the players’ appeals.  And that most likely will be another issue raised when it’s time to move on to “Phase Two.”

24 responses to “There’s no good reason for ongoing delay in bounty appeal rulings

  1. Mike, you’re giving Goddell far too much credit for being decent. He has no evidence to support his sanctions, therefore he’s showing the players who’s in charge. How sick is this guy? He knows that this case is going into the courts, yet he’s playing mind games with these players. No matter how he dots his “i” and dots his “t”, he still needs hard evidence to validate the charges he has made against these players. His opinions, at the end of the day, still has to be support by facts. That’s the only thing that will quell the suspicions that surround this embattled commissioner. Prove that you’re not a serial liar Mr. Goddell, this is your chance.

  2. This is exactly why Goodell is a chump…
    At every opportunity he has taken the most offensive stance, not to really get to the truth but to convict these players. He no longer wishes to find out if the players truly are guilty of what he has accused and penalized them for, but to now justify his actions. No one but their inner circle knows their conflict….but it’s there!
    Never underestimate the ugly nature of a powerful man’s ego…..

  3. I think even the most ardent Saints fan must by now be truly embarrassed by their team. I know I am embarrassed for them. The fact is it has apparently been known among the players that the Saints take cheap shots with intent to injure for a while now. See the Athlon preview issue pg 177 under the heading cheap shots for details.

  4. Could Goodell actually be taking a fresh look at the evidence like D Smith asked? Has he perhaps finally realized that virtually everything he’s put forth in public view has been easily refuted?

    Na…Ginger wouldn’t snap like that!

  5. What Goodell should be most concerned with is making an accurate and fair ruling in regards to NFL players and coaches. Instead, it appears that he’s only interested in making his original accusations and punishments stick, even if it’s wrong. All he has to do is just admit he may have made a mistake based on misreading certain evidence that turned out to be unreliable.

  6. The players did not fully engage in the appeals process and if the league can gain a tactical advantage by delaying their ruling then it should come as no surprise. This whole episode has become entirely too adversarial and reflects poorly upon the recent CBA. I don’t have a positive suggestion. going forward but it would be nice if the league and NFLPA come to some sort of agreement on a way to avoid this type of impasse in the future. Goodell’s position is seemingly too powerful but the NFLPA’s reaction to the league has bee too much a a reflexive knee jerk reaction.

    If players are targeting other players (members of the union) then the NFLPA needs to take a more neutral position. Taking a neutral position becomes very difficult when the motivation of the league is suspect. This is a stinking mess.

  7. If Goodell thought the general football-viewing public would applaud what he’s doing, he’s nuts. People may feel their football is being taken away from them, saying it’s turning into flag football.

    They absolutely didn’t expect the public to be this ambivalent toward it. Couple that with the “you know what you did” attitude and I think they’re waiting for the PR storm to blow over.

    This was a massive miscalculation on both sides.

  8. Could Goodell actually be taking fresh look at the evidence like D Smith asked? Did he maybe finally realize that virtually every piece of alleged evidence the leagues put forth has been easily refuted? And finally realized he over-reached?

    No way, Ginger would never snap like that!

  9. If the accusations and penalties fit the crime that is now dubbed “pay for performance / bounty rule violation” all of the mess would have been over by the draft.

    The NFL has no one to blame but themselves that we will still be talking about bounties during the Superbowl.

  10. Goodell is frantically consulting with lawyers to see how he can best “phrase” his ruling without giving away the fact that handing down a penalty is more important to him than evaluating the evidence. The PR that is fed to the casual fan or news organization is more important to Roger than the disconnect between crime and punishment (and evidence) that the small circle of players/coaches/ ardent fans can see…

  11. I have been looking everyday to see the appeal rulings.

    I’m not sure what is taking so long, considering many of the talking heads at the NFL insist that their evidence is legit and that they aren’t backing down.

  12. In my view, there is no “delay” per se here. Article 46, Section 2(d) of the 2011 NFL CBA states, in pertinent part, that, “As soon as PRACTICABLE (emphasis added) following the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer will render a written decision which will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), club(s) and parties to this Agreement with respect to that dispute.” Given the prospect of possible future litigation in federal court, one would think that Commissioner Goodell should take extra care to ensure that his written decision(s), which will be part of the record, are carefully crafted and well vetted with his attorneys to protect his legal flank as this matter moves forward.

  13. It was easy for me to completely condemn the Saints and the players for their (alleged) actions reported as “Bountygate”, and it still seems beyond belief and unforgivable in many ways. But the way Goodell and the league are handling this is completely bogus and unprofessional. Now a supposed voice “Expert” says the “give me my money” statement was not Hargrove, several Saints players have come forward and said the same thing, and the league states it will “stand on the evidence we have”. Doesn’t anyone want the “Real” truth?
    Then, Fujita get 3 games suspension for funding the program and Hargrove gets 8 games for denying it existed? What the hell kind of justice is that?
    Are these players really stupid enough to fight tooth and nail against 50,000 pages of evidence the league claims to have? I think not!
    I love the NFL, and I hate the thought of a bounty program, and punishments are no doubt warranted, but make the punishment fit the crime, and be certain to punish ALL the “right” guys, not just 4 of them!
    I’m starting to believe Goodell is the one NOT being truthful here.

  14. Has anyone considered the fact that the players provided no defense during their appeal hearing might hurt the so called phase 2. In a civil trial they are going to have to do more than poke holes in the NFLs evidence. They will actually have to provide reasonable explanations for the Williams tape, the NFL flims video, and statements made to league under questioning. I bet it won’t make it to trial. The NFL will file for summary judgement and they will likely win it and the case will be thrown out before a jury ever steps int he court.


  16. 1) the NFL is following the rule of LAW, you know those silly things that our country was founded on.

    2)the NFLPA is merely trying to “guilt” the league to capitulate by having its members speak about in the press, who is on the players side since they are a union. the NFLPA doesn’t bother with what laws apply and which do not apply, kind of like PrezBO

  17. the only reason to delay is to give the impression of ‘the jury is out’

    reality is: some of them outright confessed and some got recorded…. maybe there is some collateral damage in the suspensions… or maybe not… but there was always zero chance of a reversal…

    the ongoing player whining led by Brees does nothing but hurt everyone…. what is the win scenario Brees is looking for? does he think there is gonna be a reversal? is it gonna help him with his contract? is a monster smear campaign conspiracy going to be revealed?

    if the players think any of those things are going to happen…. they are smoking more than usual….

  18. Actually, given the behavior exhibited by the NFLPA leadership specifically, & the suspended players in general, there’s every reason for Goodell & the NFL to drag their feet.

    Even after the considerable lengths the Union has gone to in an ill-advised bid to circumvent the very CBA it fairly bargained for, fought for, & ultimately agreed to, they have very low odds of success.

    The players violated the new CBA (2011-present) by lying to the league at every turn & obstructing the bounty investigation.

    The players preceeded this with violations of the old CBA (2009 & 2010) by participating in &/or funding a “pay for performance”, &/or “pay to injure” scheme, & again lying to the league at every turn & obstructing the bounty investigation.

    Perhaps the biggest detriment to any court-based challenge undertaken by the players, is the unfortunate fact that none of them followed the CBA prescribed appeals process to the much ballyhooed punishments handed down by the commissioner—you know, the appeals process & disciplinary process the NFLPA agreed to by signing the CBA.

    Beside all of this is the fact that most courts have generally been very reluctant to uphold challenges to CBAs by parties (NFLPA & the players) that have negotiated & agreed to said CBAs.

    Per the CBA, the league has every right to take their time on this, & they should—we have all been assured by the prior actions of the NFLPA & the suspended players that they will likely never follow the CBA themselves.

    Prudence therefore demands the league use anything & everything in the CBA to zealously safeguard the integrity of the game.

    I’m as tired of this as anyone else, but that doesn’t mean I want the NFLPA or the suspended players to receive a pass on the obvious violations of league rules.

    It is amazing how many people have confused employee discipline with the legal crisis of the century. I’m confident that I (or any one of the PFT posters) would be in the unemployment line if we purposely lied to our employers after being implicated in behavior expressly forbidden in our employment contracts.

    It’s quite simple actually.

  19. @scandanviansausage

    I would bet anything that you work in the league office. Your comments are right out of Pash’s mouth. You’re not fooling anybody Roger. You gotta admit, I blown away by the extent to which the NFL will go to promote lies and deceit. Wow…..

  20. @jason1980:

    I don’t work for the league and I actually like the Saints. My name is not Roger. I find the analysis by scandinaviansausage1974 to be well stated. Particularly the segment regarding how significantly detrimental the players’ decision not to participate in the appeal process will be to their efforts at obtaining relief from the judicial system.

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