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Old 05-09-2012, 02:06 PM   #1
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Spencer Larsen
Default The CBA and the Saints bounty scandal

There is a general consensus amongst media and independent nfl reporters than the NFL should release any and all evidence against the Saints players and should have done so prior to handing out suspensions - I have done some digging into the CBA which is the document governing the NFLs interaction with the players, which provides a framework agreed upon by both sides for how punishment is handed out.

The relevant article is number 46 as long as the matter is not considered a salary cap violation. The relevant language with my interpretation is:

(a) All disputes involving a fine or suspension imposed upon a player for conduct on the playing field (other than as described in Subsection (b) below) or involving action taken against a player by the Commissioner for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football, will be processed exclusively as follows: the Commissioner will promptly: send written notice of his action to the player, with a copy to the NFLP A.
Clearly this is being treated as an off-field issue by the NFL - there is no specific language in the CBA regarding what constitutes on- and off-field infractions and how infractions that have occured partly on and partly off the field are to be handled.
As we can see here, the standard procedure is that the Commissioner upon deciding punishment must promptly in writing inform the players and NFLPA.

Within three (3) business days following such written notification, the player affected thereby, or the NFLPA with the player's approval,
may appeal in writing to the Commissioner.
The players have 3 days to appeal, all 4 have done so.

(a) Hearing Officers. For appeals under Section l (a) above, the Commissioner shall, after consultation with the Executive Director of the NFLP A, appoint one or more designees to serve as hearing officers. For appeals under Section 1 (b) above, the parties shall, on an annual basis, jointly select two (2) or more designees to serve as hearing officers. The salary and reasonable expenses for the designees' selvices shall be shared equally by the NFL and the NFLPA. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Commissioner
may serve as hearing officer in any appeal under Section 1 (a) of this Article at his discretion.
This is where it gets juicy. Section 1 (b) is regarding unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecesary roughness, neither of which is the case here according to the NFL which means the Art Shell, Ted Cotrell duo is out.
Goodell is expected to invoke the notwithstanding clause to appear as hearing officer at the appeal, which as long as the behaviour is deemed to not be on-field unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecesary roughness is in accordance with the CBA.

(ii) Discovery. In appeals under Section 1 (a), the parties shall exchange copies of any exhibits upon which they intend to rely no later than three (3) calendar days prior to the hearing. Failure to timely provide any intended exhibit shall preclude its introduction at the hearing.
This section spells out that the NFL must share any exhibits they intend to use against the players before the appeal hearing - this also means that the NFL is under no obligation to release any evidence before this date.

Vilma and his lawyer are making a big deal of this, but frankly they don't seem to have a leg to stand on, if the NFL releases the evidence no less than 3 days before the scheduled appeal hearing they are entitled to use all the evidence at the hearing.

My take:

I believe there is one important question of principle nature to be answered - was the infraction purely an off-field issue, offering money for injuries and hits or is part of the infraction the actual attempts to injure and should be considered a salary cap violation or conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game?

The NFL would dearly like to make it all off-field, that way Goodell can serve as appeals hearing officer. If it is a salary cap issue, then a independent master will chair the arbitration hearing, however if it is only deemed conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game it falls under Goodell's territory.

I assume the players will go the starcaps/DJ Williams way and file a federal suit to obtain an injunction against the suspensions pending litigation - all the players involved are over 30 I believe, and if they could win 2 years worth of injunctions they would probably be able to retire before sitting out with a suspension.

Personally I believe the CBA is clear enough on this issue, the players have agreed to the CBA very recently, knowing that in cases like these Goodell would be able to hear appeals against his judgement - they did put in language in cases of on-field behaviour to be heard by independent parties but failed to extend that to all suspensions.
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Old 05-09-2012, 08:06 PM   #2

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Good summary. The only thing I think is clear (others disagree) is that it is not an on-field issue at hand. What it falls under, what punishments are appropriate, etc. are still iffy but I just don't see how it can be argued as an on-field issue is mind boggling.
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