“Offer” could be key term in re-issued bounty rulings

Getty Images

As Commissioner Roger Goodell ponders his next move in the bounty cases, his next move could set the stage for even more legal maneuvering.

The full written ruling from the internal appeals panel that vacated the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove prevents the Commissioner from imposing any penalties that relate in any way to the payment or receipt of money as part of the pay-for-performance/bounty program.

So how does the league impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the game under its bounty rule, when the bounty rule is premised on the payment and/or receipt of money?

The language of the bounty rule suggests that the key word will be “offer.”

“No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his team’s performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof,” the rule states.  “No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct (for example, personal fouls to or injuries inflicted on opposing players).”

The players undoubtedly will say that it’s a distinction without a difference, and that any involvement of money — offered or paid — brings the conduct within the scope of the rules regarding salary cap violations, over which Goodell has no authority.  Indeed, the appeals panel draws the line at the point “between agreeing to injure other players and the agreement to participate in an undisclosed compensation arrangement.”  That arguably includes offers.

If it does, it arguably seals off the Commissioner’s authority to do anything at all.

6 responses to ““Offer” could be key term in re-issued bounty rulings

  1. The commissioner should cede authority of the bounty case as it relates to the players. The Saints franchise has suffered severe punishment for allowing coaches to participate in the bounty system and then lying about it to investigators. If the arbitrator or whatever panel decides that the players deserve punishment then the commissioner is off the hook. There is too much animus between the players and Goodell at this point.

  2. Goodell clearly wanted to punish the Saints for something, and he’ll keep working at it (and likely running up the legal bills) until he finds a way to rationalize punishing them. If there’s no evidence, he’ll make up something. If there’s no authority, he’ll make up something.

    What I’d like to know is why Goodell has this vendetta going. Did Tom Benson vote against a raise for him or something like that?

  3. If the commish ends up having no power to discipline the players, then he will have suspended coaches for not stopping a program that he can’t prove ever happened !!

  4. The appeals panel vacated Goodell’s punishments b/c Goodell overstepped his authority under the CBA. The federal judge, the day before the appeals panel’s decision said she felt Goodell overstepped his authority under the CBA. If Goodell hands down any punishments that are unrelated to any sort of salary cap violation, red flags should fly that he has something to hide. Question is, should Goodell be suspended for a year or at least the rest of the season for conduct detrimental b/c as the commish, he abused his position & violated the very CBA he negotiated.

  5. The appeal panel split a hair that didn’t exist. I would have thought they would have been more familiar with the principle of legislative intent.

    Salary cap rules exist to prevent more profitable teams from gaining an advantage over less profitable teams by prohibiting them from outspending the competition. In other words, the rules don’t let Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and others turn their teams into a NFL version of the Yankees.

    The rules against bounties have absolutely nothing to do with ensuring financial equality amongst the teams. They are designed to protect player safety.

    Unlike the salary cap, the league’s concern with bounty programs is not the financial reward paid to the team’s players. No free agent is going to choose one team over another because of a comparatively nominal amount of cash. Money is simply not the issue.

    Instead, the problem the bounty rules are designed to prevent is the creation of an incentive to tackle, block, hit, etc. an opposing player in such a fashion they can’t return. A typical player’s contract is already laden with incentives for tackles and sacks. So it’s not a matter of pay for performance. A bounty program only rewards its participants when they knock a player out of the games. Players are only knocked out of games when they are injured. Thus, the bounty program creates an incentive to injure other players. That’s what the league is trying to prevent.

    The laws against robbing a bank are not designed to keep the robbers from getting rich. They were enacted to protect victims from losing their money. The rules Goodell is enforcing against the suspended players are not about any money they might have been paid. It’s about protecting the health of their intended victims.

    It’s not even close. The appeal panel punted on making a decision for whatever reason. This is not a salary cap issue. Goodell clearly has the power to again suspend the players. He was correct the first time and will be again when he hands out the next round of discipline.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!