AP source: Union could challenge Tagliabue role
The NFL players’ union might challenge former Commissioner Paul
Tagliabue replacing Roger Goodell as the appeals officer in the
Saints’ bounties case.
The players association has concerns about ”ethical and legal
issues,” a person familiar with the matter told The Associated
Press on Sunday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because
the union has not made any public statements.
The NFL had no comment.
Tagliabue is scheduled to hear the appeals of Jonathan Vilma,
Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove on Oct. 30. He was
appointed Friday by Goodell, his successor as commissioner.
Tagliabue works for the law firm that is defending the league in
U.S. District Court in Louisiana in the bounties case. The NFLPA
believes that’s a conflict of interest. The union also might
contend that such ”pay-for programs” existed when Tagliabue was
commissioner, with his knowledge.
The NFL and the union discussed the possibility that Tagliabue
would step in if Goodell recused himself from hearing the appeals,
and the union also suggested ”several outsiders” who could be
used in place of Goodell, the person said.
Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season and Smith was banned
four games for his role in the bounties program. Fujita, now with
the Browns, was barred three games, since reduced to one. Hargrove
is a free agent whose suspension was reduced from eight games to
”I have held two hearings to date and have modified the
discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the
players,” Goodell said Friday. ”I will have no role in the
upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”
Tagliabue was NFL commissioner from 1989-2006. For part of that
time, Goodell was the league’s general counsel.
The collective bargaining agreement with the union that was
reached to end the lockout in August 2011 gave Goodell exclusive
authority to hear appeals of discipline for conduct detrimental or
to appoint someone to hear and decide an appeal. Goodell
periodically has appointed others to hear appeals for club fines,
personal conduct suspensions and for matters concerning drug and
Goodell handed down the suspensions in May and they took effect
in July after initial appeals were rejected by Goodell. Those
suspensions lasted through training camp before being vacated by a
three-member appeals panel that instructed Goodell to start the
disciplinary process again and clarify his reasons for suspending
The suspensions were reissued by the NFL last week and promptly
appealed by all four players. None of the suspensions is currently
in effect because they were appealed within the framework of the
NFL’s labor agreement.
But all four players have asked U.S. District Judge Ginger
Berrigan to throw out Goodell’s disciplinary rulings on the grounds
he has demonstrated bias against the players in his handling of the
bounty investigation. The players say Goodell violated due
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