The NFL Players Association took legal action on Thursday, challenging the authority of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend four current and former Saints players for their alleged involvement in a so-called pay-for-performance/bounty program. Friday afternoon the league issued the following statement in response:
On May 2, Commissioner Goodell suspended four current or former New Orleans Saints players for conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL based on their participation in the pay-for-performance/bounty program that operated during the 2009-2011 seasons.
Last night, the NFLPA initiated two arbitration proceedings challenging the suspensions. The proceedings do not challenge the underlying facts, which were first shared with the union more than two months ago after being obtained from Saints executives, coaches, players, and others. The proceedings also do not challenge the reasonableness of the discipline imposed by the commissioner.
In one proceeding, the union seeks immunity for the four suspended players, a position it never advanced during months of discussion on this matter. In the other, the union argues that someone other than the commissioner should have imposed the discipline.
We expect that the arbitrators will 1) reject the union’s efforts to protect players from accountability for prohibited and dangerous conduct directed against other players and 2) uphold the disciplinary process that was so carefully negotiated in the Collective Bargaining less than a year ago.
Pro Player Insiders learned late Thursday night that the union filed a grievance with the NFL’s vice president of labor arbitration and litigation, Buckley Briggs, and a System Arbitration with the System Arbitrator, Professor Stephen Burbank of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.