Finally, it looks like there might be a little sense in the National Football League after all. On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, would take over the hearings on the appeals by suspended New Orleans Saints players. This is the next chapter in the Saints’ bounty program.
In May, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove were all suspended by the NFL for their participation in the Saints’ alleged bounty program. The NFL alleges that the program was to reward players for big, crippling hits on offensive players. Vilma was suspended for the entire season for his role, Smith was suspended for four games, Fujita, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, was canned for three games and Hargrove, now a free agent, for eight games.
The suspensions were briefly lifted when the players appealed. Those stood until Goodell, who was given exclusive power to hear and rule on appeals in August 2011, rejected the players’ appeals in July. Citing a lack of reasoning for suspension, a three-member committee recommended to Goodell that he start from the beginning. After going through the whole process again, Goodell still came to the same basic result: suspensions.
The four players, and the players union, have asked U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to throw out Goodell’s suspension because it violated the players’ right to have due process. They argued that Goodell could not be a fair and balanced arbitrator.
In a move made to appease the union, Goodell appointed Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner from 1989-2006, to help arbitrate and come to the final decision. This is small step in the right direction and it serves as a small victory for the players.
The NFL always tries to make itself look good. Some of their attempts do look good, such as the League’s philanthropy. But the NFL didn’t get to a $9 billion machine just by helping and encouraging kids to play outside. Instead, the NFL got where it is today on the backs of the players.
Roger Goodell, with his exclusive power to rule on appeals, has made a name for himself on taking advantage of the players. Finally, the commissioner has listened to cries that he is not fair in the appeals process. If Goodell wants to suspend players, he will regardless of how many appeals they file. It is great for the players now that Goodell has removed himself from this high-profile case. With all the work the players put in to making the NFL entertaining, the players deserve some sweet justice.