NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from hearing the appeals of player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty saga.
The players had been asking Goodell to recuse himself and claiming that he is biased and wouldn’t be able to give them a fair hearing on their appeals. I think this also could set a precedent that might limit Goodell’s power to be the sole judge and jury in player discipline. That’s something players fought for, but didn’t get, in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. This doesn't help Goodell's public image, especially on the same day that former Minnesota defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy accused the commissioner of being a liar for saying Kennedy was a "whistleblower'' on the bounty program.
Goodell said he has appointed former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to hear the appeals.
That brings the question of if the appeals really can be fair. Goodell worked for Tagliabue for years and the two are close. When Tagliabue retired, Goodell had his blessing to be the successor.
“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,’’ Goodell said in a statement. “Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue’s decisions.”
Tagliabue will hear the appeals Oct. 30.
At the very least, getting a fresh set of eyes and ears on the appeals at least gives the appearance that the players are getting a fair shake. At most, it might convince federal judge Ginger Berrigan, who has implied she thinks that Vilma’s suspension was too harsh, that this case could go beyond Goodell’s jurisdiction and into her jurisdiction.
There still are likely to be a lot of twists and turns in this saga, but I'd say right now things have swung in favor of the players.