Yes, the NFL Players Association agreed since the very first Collective Bargaining Agreement that the Commissioner will have final say over punishment imposed on players for infractions against the integrity of the game. But the Commissioner still must be independent and unbiased in exercising his authority over the process.
If the Commissioner is being pressured by one or more owners to resolve the case a certain way, his ability to be independent and unbiased becomes undermined. As PFT recently reported, multiple influential owners have been trying to influence Roger Goodell’s decision in the Tom Brady appeal. Via Tom Curran of CSNNE.com, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio has attached two specific (and predictable) names to this effort.
“I know who they are and I’m gonna name ‘em right now,” Paolantonio told the Mighty 1090 in San Diego on Friday. “Jim Irsay of the Colts. Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens and others in the AFC who believe the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly.”
If a truly independent party were handling Brady’s appeal, any effort by an owner to lobby the arbitrator (one way or the other) would be highly irregular — and it would result in the arbitrator informing the parties immediately of an inappropriate attempt to influence the outcome of the independent decision.
Earlier this year, the Missouri Supreme Court found that the Commissioner can’t be independent in arbitration cases involving legal claims filed against individual teams because he works for the people who own those teams. That same dynamic applies in Brady’s case.
Goodell works for the owners, and some of the owners reportedly are trying to influence him. Which should make the extent to which Irsay, Bisciotti, or any other owners have lobbied Goodell to reach a certain decision in the Brady appeal a central issue in the looming litigation challenging the ultimate outcome of Brady’s appeal.
Although the NFLPA has agreed to allow Goodell to resolve these appeals, the union and the players are entitled to a truly independent decision. If one or more owners aren’t letting Goodell make a truly independent decision, the decision becomes vulnerable to being scuttled by a a truly independent person who wears black not as a fashion statement.