Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has vacated all of the suspensions that current commissioner Roger Goodell handed down in the bounty scandal case involving the New Orleans Saints players and former players.
What’s the best way to emasculate a hardline commissioner who wants to reign in the outlandish behavior of some coaches and players? Let the former “people’s commissioner” decide the fate of a ground-breaking case after punishments had already been doled out.
Tagliabue, who was brought in to hear the appeals after the original suspensions were overturned in court, even reaffirmed Goodell’s findings, but decided that the punishments were too severe, and inappropriate given the circumstances:
“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,”
Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, who has been the most outspoken of the suspended players, still has a defamation lawsuit pending against Goodell. This ruling by Tagliabue allows Goodell to save face, but doesn’t justify his actions in response to the scandal:
“Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell’s findings that Mr. Vilma offered such a bounty (on then Vikings quarterback Brett Favre),”
This entire mess just sends the wrong message to both players and fans, and leaves a pretty sour taste in the mouths of everyone involved on both sides.
It’s like if your mother caught you and your friends sneaking beers out of the refrigerator when you were a kid, had all the evidence to prove it and grounded you for six months, only to have your dad come in and say “Yep, mom caught you red-handed, but since all your friends were involved to and it was peer pressure, I’ll just reduce your allowance this week.”
I’m sure a lot of this decision by Tagliabue has to do with timing. The last thing that the NFL wants right now is to be involved in further ugliness in regards to this ongoing saga, when they have a public relations nightmare on their hands in the wake of a murder, two player deaths and one player arrest in the last two weeks. Given those circumstances I’m sure everyone involved felt it was time to put this baby to bed.
So what is the message to the players now?
If you get caught in a play-for-pay or bounty scheme, you’ll end up losing all the bounty money you make, so make sure it’s worth it. Don’t worry, your coaches will take the fall. They don’t have a union.