Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacates suspensions issued by Roger Goodell in Saints BountyGate
After a review by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, all Saints player suspensions following their BountyGate scandal have been vacated
Tagliabue ruled that current commissioner Roger Goodell's punishments for the players essentially didn't fit the crime. He recognized that the players were indeed at fault, but shouldn't have been suspended by the commissioner.
This basically implies that the coaching staff was at the heart of the bounty scandal, and that the players were simply following orders, at the very worst.
Jonathan Vilma, WIll Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita will no longer have to serve any suspensions at all, despite the fact that Tagliabue confirmed that they engaged in conduct detrimental to the league.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello released a statement from the commissioner via his twitter account
, and it reads as follows:
"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. 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 Brett Favre)."
The NFL released a response, also tweeted by Aiello, which reads as follows:
"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."
This is a significant decision for both sides, but still confirms that Commissioner Goodell has the authority to suspend players for significant conduct in the future. Tagliabue's ruling merely lifts their suspensions in this case, and places most of the blame on the coaching staff.
What are your thoughts on this decision? Should the suspensions have been upheld? Or did Tagliabue make the right call?