bill-swift - May 11, 2012
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive!
For the majority of the investigation into allegations that a bounty system was in place in New Orleans during defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' tenure with the team (2009-11) the perception has been that various members of the Saints organization were guilty of weaving a web of lies. Now it is starting to appear that the NFL may be the guilty party.
No Due Process? Isn't this America?
When the NFL announced that four players would be suspended for their part in the Bounty-Gate scandal the league was likely hoping that the players would essentially just take the punishment, much like the coaches involved and Mickey Loomis did. What the NFL forgot was that the union behind the players has never been to give up without a fight.
Sure enough, the four players suspended—Jonathan Vilma (one season), Anthony Hargrove (8 games), Will Smith (4 games) and Scott Fujita (3 games)—have appealed.
Let the fight commence. The sad thing is that this is a fight that no one can win.
The league has already lost. Things began looking suspicious when the league took so long to hand down the penalties after doing so quickly in regards to the coaches. With Drew Brees and other players in the interim speaking out on how the league had yet to provide them with proof, the seeds of doubt had been planted.
After hearing that somewhere around 20-27 players were involved, only four were suspended—there was more doubt. The league has declined to produce the evidence that they have indicating the proof that the players suspended are indeed guilty. This comes off just like during the refusal of the owners to open the books during the CBA discussions. If there is nothing to hide or if you have the proof,why not produce?
An Angry Commissioner Makes for a Biased Judge
Part of the problem also lies with Roger Goodell. He made it clear when he announced the suspensions on Sean Payton and company that he was angry about being lied to. Goodell let the situation become personal, tainting the process by allowing his emotions to impact his position as judge on the case.
Since the players each announced they were appealing the suspension they have each in turn stated that they were never given a chance to face the charges, hear the evidence, and state their own case. Players are supposed to get a hearing (according to the CBA) where they can have a lawyer present if they choose before a penalty is levied; not after like was the case here.
So in essence, the picture that is being painted now is that the NFL (namely Roger Goodell) got mad that someone lied, decided to forego due process afforded the players, and punished people because he wanted to.
Should the players win here the problems for the league have only just begun. The players involved will likely have legal recourse against the league; defamation, emotional stress, the list goes on. Since the commissioner tried to circumvent the CBA it would not be surprising if there were repercussions there as well. Can someone who is unable to be professional be counted on to govern the NFL?
Through cases like this it has become apparent that the CBA has a number of holes in it as far as the players are concerned. With more cases concerning player health on the horizon this could be the beginning of what could be a very troubling time for the 9-billion dollar industry that is the National Football League.
The web of lies has been spun. Who knows what we'll get when (or if) they are untangled.
Article by Travis Pulver
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