Saturday, September 8, 2012

Arbitrators throw out NFL suspensions

An NFL arbitration panel threw out the League’s suspensions of four players involved with the New Orleans Saints bounty or pay-to-injure case. A one year suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma was overturned, along with shorter suspensions to Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith, according to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). League Commissioner, Roger Goodell, suspended the players last May, but the latest decision apparently doesn’t affect suspensions handed down to Saints coaches. This was an appeal of an earlier grievance decision by Arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, that upheld the Commissioner's authority under the collective bargaining agreement to impose "conduct detrimental" discipline on players who provided or offered to provide financial incentives to injure opponents. The appeals panel of arbitrators consisted of retired San Francisco federal Judge Fern Smith, retired New York federal Judge Richard Howell, and Georgetown Professor James Oldham. The decision could impact consolidated federal lawsuits brought against the NFL by linebacker Vilma and the NFLPA on behalf of the other three players until Commissioner Goodell decides whether to reissue punishment within his power. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan was spared from having to decide before Sunday on a TRO requested by the players. Interestingly, earlier in the week, Judge Berrigan lamented failure of settlement talks wrote she was concerned competing agendas among lawyers on all sides in the dispute were undermining the interests of the players-- asking whether it made more sense for Smith, Fujita and Hargrove to have separate lawyers, rather than the same lawyers representing the NFLPA. The players informed the judge in documents filed that they were comfortable with union representation. See stories- and and and and NFLPA statement-