9

July

Monday Morning View: Roger Goodell Has Ethical Responsibility in Bounty Suspensions

Roger Goodell

As NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell has a responsibility to act ethically in bounty scandal suspensions.

We’ve all been following this New Orleans Saints bounty scandal for a while now, and although NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell recently upheld the four player suspensions in their appeal, the fight is far from over. The NFLPA has now filed a lawsuit on behalf of Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita claiming that Goodell violated the labor agreement in the “investigation and arbitration process.” Jonathan Vilma is currently involved in a separate lawsuit against the NFL.

But I want to back up a little bit. When the news was released that Goodell denied the players’ appeals, he wrote a “public” letter to the players involved that outlined the foundations of his decision. Here is some of the text in case you’ve missed it:

Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions. Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process . . .

Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,’ your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental’ determinations . . .

In sum, I did not make my determinations here lightly. At every stage, I took seriously my responsibilities under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I determined the discipline for each of you

(1) only after a long, detailed and professional investigation by NFL Security’s experienced investigators;

(2) only after the results of that investigation were carefully reviewed by an independent expert, former United States Attorney Mary Jo White;

(3) only after I heard the appeals of the Saints’ coaches and staff regarding discipline for their roles in the program;

24

June

Examining the Anthony Hargrove “Give Me My Money” Video

Here’s a very interesting breakdown by Mike Florio of the National Football Post of the video the NFL claims shows Anthony Hargrove saying “Give me my money.” I don’t agree with Florio on many things, but I believe he is right on the money (pun intended) with this one.

There is NO way anyone can watch this video and conclude it’s Anthony Hargrove saying those words. It might be him, and it might not. Lets take a look:

 

Today, Florio spoke with NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash, who told Florio this about the video: “…demonstrates Mr. Hargrove’s awareness of the program and his understanding that it existed, and it demonstrates that his statements to our investigators in early 2010 denying the program and saying there was nothing like that  in existence were false.  That is the basis on which the Commissioner imposed discipline on Mr. Hargrove.” Here is that video:

Florio is quick to point out that Pash’s point is pretty much invalid if Hargrove didn’t say it himself, Florio writes,  ”His second point continues to depend, however, on a finding that Hargrove and no one else said, “give me my money.”  And the video simply does not prove that.”

Now, I’m not suggesting there wasn’t a bounty program, we all know there was. I’m only saying that this particular piece of “evidence” the NFL is touting, which happens to affect Anthony Hargrove directly, does not prove what the NFL says it proves.

My take on the video is that it’s Remi Adoyele saying “give me my money.” Ayodele’s head turns towards Vitt just before those words are spoken and then away from Vitt right after those words. Ayodele was one of the players in on the violent hit on Brett Favre that Vitt thought had knocked Favre out of the game. Hargrove wasn’t even in the game on that play. Why would Hargrove have a reason to say “give me my money?”

The NFL is wrong on this, and they know they are wrong – which is why they are refusing to let this matter get taken outside the confines of the NFL. That begs the question, what else are they wrong about? If you want to explore that point further, take a look at this article by Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com. Mike goes down the list of the NFL’s evidence and grades the validity of each one.

18

June

Hargrove to Appeal Suspension Today: Agent Rips Into NFL

Green Bay Packers Anthony Hargrove

Hargrove appeals suspension today.

Anthony Hargrove and the three other players suspended in the “BountyGate” scandal will have their appeals heard today by none other than the man who handed them out, Roger Goodell. That is one big bone of contention for the players and their representatives, who previously pushed for an impartial arbitrator but lost that battle.

According to Keven Seifert of ESPN, Hargrove’s agent, Phil Williams, is not the type of loud-mouthed agent who goes spouting off on a regular basis. Yet, he felt so strongly about this case and the “injustice” being layed down on Hargrove that he put his own reputation on the line with a blistering letter questioning the NFL’s honesty and underhanded tactics.

The NFL waited until just days before the appeal hearing to release their “evidence,” in a rather transparent attempt to make it as difficult as possible for the players’ representatives to build an appeals case. While it’s accepted as fact that a bounty program was in place at New Orleans (as it probably was on many other teams), is it fair to single out just four players for punishment when many more participated?

But beyond those types of questions, my main issue with this whole case is how the NFL (and specifically Roger Goodell)  are suing strong-arm tactics and in the process, eliminating any sense of fairness. This would be like a trial judge who imposed a sentence showing up on the judge’s bench when the same “defendant” appeals their case.

The dictionary definition of a czar is an “autocratic ruler exercising great authority or power.” There is no doubt that in the world of football, Roger Goodell has been a “czar” for quite some time. He is quickly approaching the title of despot – a tyrant or oppressor with absolute power.

Perhaps he’s feeling the pressure of this massive concussion suit and is circling the wagons in every way possible. But there’s still no excuse for being that unfair and frankly, I find it distasteful.

(Going off on a tangent, there is a VERY thought-provoking article at the Business Insider on what they see as potential radical changes that may be coming to the sport of football at every level as a result of the concussion issue. A must-read, whether you agree with their conclusions, or not.)