This isn’t a surprise, but it’s a tough break none the less for the suspended players and the NFLPA. System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of Roger Goodell and the NFL, saying Goodell was indeed acting within his rights of power when he suspended Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove. Specifically, the pay for performance program is a salary cap violation, therefore an off the field infraction which falls within Goodell’s sole jurisidiction. It was a nice try by the NFLPA, but clearly Goodell can do what he wants. It was pretty obvious to me this would never work because the CBA that was signed clearly gives him that power. The ruling that a salary cap infraction is an off the field action seemed fairly straightforward.
The NFLPA is still hanging on to the hope that…
infractions committed prior to the new CBA cannot be grandfathered in. I think that ultimately won’t work either, but it has more merit than this previous item Burbank ruled on. That claim will demand a ruling as well. Vilma’s libel suit against Goodell, in my opinion, has the weakest chance at any kind of success. Unfortunately, the longer this goes, the more I get the feeling we’re just cutting through a lot of red tape to get back to the original ruling by Goodell against the players. It’s certainly worth the effort, especially for Vilma, but it’s not looking too promising to yield any improvement in results.
Another problem in this ongoing saga is the NFL coaches association has now turned on the NFLPA releasing this statement. Another source that does a decent job covering this story is NFL.com, which is worth the read. What we have here is everyone turning on each other. Filmmakers turning on players, players turning on filmmakers, players turning on coaches (and the league), coaches turning on players. Everyone is throwing others under the bus in this scandal and no one is willing to accept blame other than Gregg Williams, who had no choice. Even Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Loomis tried to turn on Gregg Williams using the defense of a solely authoritative rogue coach. I think every recognizes this is bad, and they want to do everything in their power to shift blame and distance themselves from responsibility. It makes you wonder if the NFL hadn’t been better off stopping at the suspensions of the coaches.
One thing is for sure, the league, the coaches, the owners and the players are all more fractured than ever. You would have thought the new CBA would resolve differences and give us a good 10 years of amicable business dealings, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that each side is more divided by the day. This really all started with the lockout, and I do feel the commraderie of the NFL took a huge hit during that process. The residual lack of trust and hard ball tactics are continuing as a result of those negotiations. The timing of “bounty gate” in a time of fragile relationships, just one year removed from a lockout and ugly finger pointing, wasn’t the best.