We spent some time Sunday discussing an extensive statement released Sunday by the agent of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, one that questioned the NFL's evidence in the New Orleans Saints bounty case and called into question whether the league has been honest in its dealings with Hargrove and three other players suspended as part of the case.
Monday morning, minutes before the players' appeal hearing in front of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL Players Association issued a similar statement on behalf of Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith. The statement furthered the suggestion that the NFL has publicly mischaracterized their actions and (in)actions and would continue if given the opportunity. Here's the full statement:
We have purportedly been disciplined by the Commissioner for alleged activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the public. We are in attendance today not because we recognize the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because we believe the League would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL’s case because this is not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due process afforded to us.
As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this League, we are profoundly disappointed with the NFL's conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has publicly said we did, and the Commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and power is fleeting.
Shame on the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell for being more concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor.
Few expect Goodell to reduce the suspensions, which for Hargrove is eight games. But those are some strong words and accusations, suggesting this case will be far from closed whenever the NFL announces its decision. Seeing phrases such as "due process" suggests a federal lawsuit, one that would first seek an injunction lifting the suspensions, is a natural consequence. Stay tuned.