Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has overturned the suspensions of four NFL players who had been punished by the league in connection with the bounty scandal that has been overshadowing the NFL since the bounties were revealed earlier this year, and hopefully this ruling will finally provide some closure on the whole matter. The NFL had originally suspended current Saints LB Jonathan Vilma and DE Will Smith, as well as former Saints DT Anthony Hargrove and current Browns LB Scott Fujita, but Tagliabue ruled that the players would no longer be suspended. The four players will also not be fined.
Tagliabue was appointed by Roger Goodell, to handle the appeals of the Saints’ bounty program that was run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-2011. Here is a small excerpt from the NFL’s ruling:
Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.
We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.
The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league.
Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football