The National Football League’s (NFL) ‘bounty’ scandal took another twist on Thursday as the Players Association (NFLPA) filed a lawsuit against the League on behalf of three players suspended in connection with the case.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New Orleans, said commissioner Roger Goodell violated the League’s labour agreement by showing he had determined Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita participated in a bounty system before arbitrating at their hearing. Jonathan Vilma, the other player implicated in the case, is suing the League and Goodell separately.
“A seminal question for this court is whether the NFL collective bargaining agreement… granted the commissioner, when serving as an arbitrator, the authority to disregard the essence of the parties’ agreement, to conduct proceedings that are fundamentally unfair, and to act with evident bias and without jurisdiction,” the lawsuit said, according to the Associated Press. “The answer, under governing case law, is clearly ‘no.’” The three players have again “categorically” denied participating in any alleged bounty programme, with the lawsuit adding: “The investigation and arbitration process that the Commissioner’s public relations machinery touted as ‘thorough and fair’ has, in reality, been a sham.”
Having already punished the New Orleans Saints and its coaching staff, the League in May turned its attention to the franchise’s players with linebacker Vilma receiving the stiffest punishment of being suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season – a move that is set to cost him US$1.6 million in base salary. Elsewhere defensive lineman Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of the 16-game regular season; Saints defensive end Smith misses the opening four games; and linebacker Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, is banned for three games.
The scandal first hit the headlines in March with Goodell blasting the Saints’ “wilful disrespect of the rules”. The franchise was found guilty of implementing a bounty programme that offered payments to their players for ‘knock-outs’ and ‘cart-offs’ – plays on which an opposing player was forced to leave the game with an injury. The NFL’s extensive investigation established the existence of an active bounty programme during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons, in violation of League rules. The NFL stated there was a deliberate effort to conceal the programme’s existence from League investigators, and a “clear determination” to maintain the programme despite express direction from Saints ownership that it stop as well as ongoing inquiries from the League office.
Responding to Thursday’s lawsuit, the NFL said in a statement: “As in the case of Mr. Vilma’s lawsuit, this is an improper attempt to litigate an issue that is committed to a collectively bargained process. There is no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining. These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades.”
See more here:
Players union files lawsuit against NFL in ‘bounty’ case