With a new arbitrator appointed to handle the bounty appeal hearings, the first order of business will be to try to figure out whether former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will be inclined to reach any different decision than current Commissioner Roger Goodell would have.
Until more is known about the manner in which Tagliabue plans to conduct the appeal hearing on October 30, there will be concerns — as articulated by Jonathan Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.
There are stray indications floating around the Internet that may, or may not, have relevance to the outcome. As Peter King noted on Twitter after Goodell gave the baton to Tagliabue, “He’s no rubber stamp. He’s not stayed close to Goodell. His ruling will be his and his alone.”
King made another great point regarding Tagliabue. He had an important role in preventing the Saints from fleeing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Many forget that rumors of relocation were rampant before the storm ravaged the region. In the aftermath, Tagliabue made sure that the Saints would stay put — and the long-downtrodden team thereafter became a key component of the rebuilding process and one of the city’s most cherished assets.
On the other hand, Tagliabue continues to be affiliated with the law firm that is representing the NFL in bounty-related legal matters, and he’s still receiving millions from the league office in deferred compensation and retirement benefits.
Here’s another factor that points to the possibility of Tagliabue having an open mind. The one-percenter with a clear establishment pedigree is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, having recently given $100,000 to the effort in Maryland. “I think this is the time to view this not as an expense, but as a capital investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” Tagliabue said.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, whose one-game suspension will be resolved by Tagliabue, applauds Tagliabue’s commitment. “When I read this a few weeks ago, I was quite impressed,” Fujita told PFT by email Sunday morning. “More and more players are opening up about their acceptance of others’ sexuality (I prefer “acceptance” over “tolerance”, which to me sounds less than equal), but when respected figures in sports leadership positions show such staunch support, it really opens a lot of eyes.”
Of course, none of this means that Fujita or the other players will tolerate or accept Tagliabue as the replacement arbitrator. The full assessment of Tagalibue’s actual and perceived fitness to provide a fair ruling will be made in the coming days, and it’s possible that the players who have been suspended will object to the assignment Goodell has made.