Bounty suspension do-over raises tough questions for NFL
September 8, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Strident in defeat on Friday, the NFL likely will impose the same suspensions that were scrapped on Friday by an appeals board established under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. After all, the players won on a technicality, with the NFLPA finding language in the labor deal that powered a creative argument that Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t use the right words when fashioning the punishments.
So now Goodell will use the right words, and he will re-issue the penalties that previously were issued against Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove. But while on the surface it seems like a simple task of writing new suspension letters, the bounty suspensions remain destined for a legal challenge before Judge Berrigan, if the NFL simply repeats the process that it previously used.
As a result, the league now has a chance to make its suspensions less susceptible to reversal. To get there, the NFL must commit to doing things differently.
For starters, the league should disclose more information to the players. Too much of the 50,000 pages of evidence has been hidden from the players, and too many of the snippets that have been given to the players and leaked to the media contain serious flaws. The mere fact that the league’s outside counsel, former prosecutor Mary Jo White, would so clearly mischaracterize the contents of the notorious sideline video from the Vikings-Saints playoff game in 2009 proves that it would be prudent for the league to re-build its case, from scratch.