Arbitrator backs Roger Godell's autority to punish Saints players
An arbitrator ruled Monday that NFL
Commissioner Roger Goodell
has the authority to discipline New Orleans Saints
players for their role in the team's alleged bounty system.
Stephen B. Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who oversees disagreements between the league and players union, said the collective-bargaining agreement gives Goodell the power to punish the players.
The NFL Players Assn.
said it will appeal the decision to the Appeals Panel provided by the CBA.
In questioning Burbank's decision, the NFLPA
wrote: "The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players."
Earlier this year, Goodell suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma
for the entire 2012 season; defensive linemen Anthony Hargrove
(now with Green Bay) and Will Smith for eight and four games, respectively; and linebacker Scott Fujita
(now with Cleveland) for three games.
In his opinion, Burbank wrote that Vilma assisted former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
in establishing and funding the bounty program. Burbank also cited the allegation that Vilma offered $10,000 on separate occasions to knock Arizona's Kurt Warner
and Minnesota's Brett Favre
out of 2009 playoff games.
Vilma has denied offering bounties to injure opponents, and he and the union say the league has yet to provide them with any evidence that he did.
Of Hargrove, Burbank wrote that "the record establishes that you actively participated in the [bounty] program."
"Moreover, and perhaps most important," Burbank wrote, "you admitted that you intentionally obstructed the league's investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators."