Paul Tagliabue Ruling: In Agreement With Goodell Findings But Upholds Vacated Punishments
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: December 11, 2012
I'm thinking Jonathan Vilma will need help picking up his jaw from the floor. In his ruling, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue asserts that current Commissioner Roger Goodell might have been in the right when initially issuing punishments, but that the case has been so badly handled that it would be impossible to justify fines or suspensions. In one statement, he affirms his belief that the players did something wrong while explaining why they cannot be punished. It's far from the free and clear verdict Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita were undoubtedly hoping to hear, but it's better than the alternative, which would have involved tens of thousands of dollars in fines or lost pay.
Tagliabue affirms factual findings of Commissioner Goodell...concludes Hargrove, Smith, Vilma "engaged in conduct detrimental" and...— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012
vacates all player discipline. "UnlikeSaints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged...— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012
"...individual player misconduct in several different aspects...My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify...— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012
"the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) December 11, 2012
The plot appeared to thicken after Aiello's initial tweets. Tagliabue evidently elaborated on the Vilma accusations, stating "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)." I'm anxious to hear further clarification on that statement. How is it possible to believe there is definitive evidence of Vilma's guilt while simultaneously vacating the punishment? Is he doing Goodell a subtle solid as his successor prepares for a defamation suit filed by Vilma? It might not break Goodell's defense wide open, but an NFL-appointed appeals officer/former NFL Commissioner definitively concluding that Vilma was involved in the Favre bounty wouldn't hurt.
For its part, the NFL has released a statement as well, per Aiello:
"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."
That statement almost sounds like Goodell isn't ready to give up the dream of punishing the accused former Saints, and the NFL certainly isn't prepared to admit defeat. It's quite the leap to take a statement that specifically vacates the punishments and interpret it as making clear that the commisioner has the authority to impose discipline, but I suppose that's the NFL under Goodell.