Tagliabue Vacates Suspensions Of Saints’ Players
On Tuesday, Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner appointed to preside over the Saints players’ bounty case appeals, made a decision regarding their fates. Tagliabue decided to vacate the suspensions Jonathon Vilma(16 games), Anthony Hargrove(8 games), Will Smith( 4 games) and Scott Fujita(1 game). The ruling brings an end to a prolonged appeals process, which began with Goodell’s initial suspension of the aforementioned players, General Manager Mickey Loomis(6 Games), Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt(8 games) Head Coach Sean Payton( Entire 2012 season) and former Saints’ Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams( Suspended Indefinitely).
Although Tagliabue determined that three of four players were guilty of conduct detrimental to the league (Fujita was absolved of any wrongdoing), he placed the blame on the people in the leadership positions–Payton, Vitt, Williams and Loomis. “My affirmation of commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines,” Tagliabue said in part of his statement. “However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.’’
In the words of LeBron James, “It’s about damn time.”
I know there are some that felt Tagliabue should have upheld Goodell’s ruling. But, Tagliabue did the only fair thing he could in this situation: use common sense.
The Saints players that participated in this pay-to-injure program were just following orders, which Tagliabue deduced.
How did people expect players to react when the person controlling their livelihood told them to do something? Not do it. Please.
Here’s how that conversation would have went.
Saints Player: Coach Williams, I will not participate in this pay-to-injure program. I am fully aware that this is a violent game, but I cannot accept money for doing what I want to do anyway.
Coach Williams: The team could use another three million dollars on the salary cap.
Saints Player: How much did you say I would get if I knocked Brett out the game.
Coach Williams: Glad you see things my way.
The crazy thing is that NFL players have received less severe suspensions, for off-the-field transgressions.
Leonard Little Suspended Eight Games In 1999: Little was convicted of vehicular manslaughter before the season.
Cedric Benson Suspended Three Games in 2011: Benson was convicted of misdemeanor assault of a family member.
Ben Roethlisberger Suspended Six Games IN 2010(Later Reduced to Four Games): Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault twice in a two-year span.
To review, players have killed people while under the influence of alcohol, assaulted family members and allegedly raped two females, but they got more lenient or equal punishments than Vilma and Hargrove, who were just following orders.
In response to Tagliabue’s ruling, Steelers Safety Ryan Clark, who has often been critical of Commissioner Goodell, tweeted: “Good old Paul Tagliabue!! Lol!! I love it. All I can say is I love it. Carry on.”
Drew Brees also showed his support for his teammates, via social media. “Congratulations to our players for having the suspensions vacated. Unfortunately, there are some things that can never be taken back,” he wrote.
The NFL gave the typical mission statement in response to Tagliabue’s ruling.
“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.”
Translation: We know the coaches were the ring leaders, but, as always, we had to grandstand and suspend the players. We didn’t expect them to challenge the ruling and expose the NFL’s absurd disciplinary process. Hopefully, this ruling will satisfy Vilma, and he won’t continue with his defamation of character lawsuit against Roger.
Vilma’s attorney, Peter R. Ginsberg, says the lawsuit against Goodell would not be dropped.
“We are obviously relieved and gratified that Jonathan no longer needs to worry about facing an unjustified suspension,’’ Ginsberg said in a statement. “On the other hand, commissioner Tagliabue’s rationalization of commissioner Goodell’s actions does nothing to rectify the harm done by the baseless allegations lodged against Jonathan. Jonathan has a right and every intention to pursue proving what really occurred and we look forward to returning to a public forum where the true facts can see the light of day.’’
If the NFL is smart, they will settle this lawsuit quickly out of court.
Once the NFL puts the Saints’ bounty case behind them, they need to shift their attention to a more important off-the-field issue: domestic violence.
Recently, the issue was highlighted by Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide case, where he shot his girlfriend and then drove to the Chiefs’ facility and shot himself.
The NFL has become a champion for cancer awareness–with NFL teams wearing pink in the month of October. …It’s time they step to the forefront of domestic violence prevention.
By Jeremiah Short
Follow this writer @DaRealJShort or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org