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NFLPA fights commissioner's authority to punish Saints case players

May 04, 2012|By Sam Farmer
  • From left are Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, the four players who were suspended by the NFL.
From left are Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita,… (Associated Press )

The NFL Players Assn. is continuing its fight on behalf of four current and former New Orleans Saints players suspended by the league, challenging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to sanction them.

The suspensions are for the players' involvement in the Saints' bounty scandal. Linebacker and team captain Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove for eight games, defensive end Will Smith for four, and linebacker Scott Fujita three. Hargrove now plays for Green Bay, and Fujita for Cleveland.

The union has filed a grievance against the NFL asserting that under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, conduct that occurred prior to when that pact was signed -- Aug. 4, 2011 -- is not subject to discipline by the league.

Further, the grievance states that only the CBA "system arbitrator," Stephen Burbank, should be able to punish players, not Goodell.

What's more, the union argues that appeals should not be handled by Goodell, but by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, the tandem jointly appointed by the league and union to judge appeals of punishments for "conduct on the playing field with respect to an opposing player or players."

The union says it has not received specific evidence from the league that implicates any of the four players.

However, the NFL says it has a signed, sworn statement from Hargrove admitting to his role in the bounty program.

According to, it was the NFLPA that submitted Hargrove's statement -- a bizarre twist, indeed.


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