Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has issued his ruling after hearing from parties on all sides in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, and Roger Goodell's predecessor has made a surprising decision: All player suspensions are vacated. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted out Tagliabue's statement, explaining his decision:
"Unlike the Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."The NFL issued its own statement.
"Having reviewed the testimony very carefully, including documentary evidence that is at the center of the conflict, and having assessed the credibility of the four central witnesses on these matters, I find there is more than enough evidence to support Commissioner Goodell's findings that Mr. [Saints linebacker Jonathan] Vilma offered such a bounty [on then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship game].
"We respect Mr. Tagliabue's decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. Tagliabue as Commissioner Goodell's designated appeals officer. The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football."Vilma, who is pursuing a defamation suit against Goodell individually, will not drop that suit based on this ruling, per his attorney, Peter Ginsberg.
"Jonathan intends to pursue the defamation lawsuit in order to reclaim his reputation," Ginsberg said in an e-mail sent to Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network. "We're pleased that the unjust penalties have been overturned, but this is only one piece in remedying things for Jonathan."Saints quarterback Drew Brees went to Twitter and most likely perfectly expressed the thoughts and feeling of everyone in his locker room.
Congratulations to our players for having the suspensions vacated. Unfortunately, some things can never be taken back.