It's Roger Goodell's World, We Only Live In It

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 03: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media during a news conference ahead of Superbowl XLVI on February 3, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It still amazes me how the NFL will push certain narratives even when those narratives have either been proven to be mischaracterized or at least called into serious question. In federal court motions filed today against Jonathan Vilma and the NFLPA, we can see that judge, jury, and executioner Roger Goodell and his minions actually believe reality and truth are whatever the hell they say it is. In their world, anyone who dares to contradict them couldn't be more wrong and are simply thought of as professional shield tarnishers.

In the filings, totaling more than 700 pages including exhibits, the NFL argued that the suspended current and former New Orleans Saints players, by refusing to fully participate in the league's appeals process, have not exhausted their opportunities for resolution.

"First, the players and the NFLPA failed to participate in any meaningful way in the appeals of the suspensions to the Commissioner. Their counsel could not have been more clear on this point. ... That alone constitutes a failure to exhaust barring the plaintiffs' claims."
700 pages? We got less than 200 pages of "The evil Saints were paying each other to injure opposing players" evidence and now they're producing 700 pages including exhibits for this court filing? What's in those pages? Jambalaya recipes?

As for "refusing to fully participate in the league's appeals process," how can those suspended have any confidence whatsoever in an appeals process where the man who levied the punishments is also the one hearing the appeals? Plus, this man has made clear in the past that he hates to be wrong about anything. The odds of him actually reconsidering his own punishments in this highly publicized and totally blown out of proportion scandal are astronomical. It was going to be a full-on kangaroo court and even the most ardently supportive NFL beat writers described it as such. The players and NFLPA last summer, when they hastily agreed to the new CBA in order to finally get the season started without losing games, really screwed the pooch when they allowed Goodell to keep this power. They should have pressed harder on this issue.

Back to today's motion:

The NFL further said that even if federal court had jurisdiction over the matter, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's suspensions should not be set aside. The league argued that the decision properly "drew its essence" from its collective bargaining agreement, finalized in August 2011.

"The CBA, the incorporated Constitution and Bylaws, and the contract of each suspended player each expressly provides that the Commissioner has the authority to impose suspensions for conduct detrimental. ... And there can be no dispute that the conduct for which the players were suspended -- helping to establish a pool that rewarded players for hits resulting in 'knockouts' or 'cart-offs,' pledging significant sums to that pool, and, in the case of (Anthony Hargrove of the Green Bay Packers), for lying to NFL Security -- was reasonably within the scope of 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of football."
Hell yes there can be dispute! Let's break this down bullet style:

  • As the players and coaches have exhaustively tried to tell them numerous times, the terms "knockouts" and "cart-offs" were not meant in the literal sense. These were Gregg Williams' simple but admittedly stupid and careless names for legal hits. Scott Shanle explained that these terms didn't mean the intent or purpose of the pay-for-performance system was to target players for injuries. If you still have an open mind towards these players' accused guilt after all of this time, please read what he said.
  • Pledging significant sums to that pool? I don't disagree that there was evidently a pool and this pool violated league rules. What I would disagree with is the league's characterization of that pool? It was a pay-for-performance pool and not the sinister sounding "bounty" pool that the league claims. Theirs wasn't the first pay-for-performance pool by a long shot and the league knows it. It just refuses to acknowledge that because it would create a bigger league scandal spread to other teams, coaches, and players at a time when Goodell and the owners are sweating bullets over the 2300+ former players waging concussion lawsuit war on the league and thereby threatening their $ billions.
  • Still grasping at the "Hargrove lied" straw? How amusingly quaint. This claim was first called into question months ago when the league released Hargrove's investigation statement after first accusing him of lying to investigators weeks before. Hargrove states he was instructed to deny the existence of said program to league investigators. I admit this is murky territory where the truth of what happened is difficult to know, but it doesn't necessarily mean he lied to investigators. Traditionally NFL-supportive Mike Florio posted a detailed article calling into question whether Hargrove actually lied as the league claims.

Back again to today's NFL motion:

The NFL also attacked the NFLPA and Vilma's assertion that they were not allowed to cross-examine key witnesses involved in the league's investigation.

"Their premise is wrong: Mr. Vilma and the NFLPA chose not to cross-examine the two principal NFL investigators who were present at (the league's June 18 appeals hearing for the suspensions) at their request."
This is another league mischaracterization. They know well that the "witnesses" requested for interview were the coaches and staff inside the Saints organization who the league says made these claims against the players. They were not made available. The "NFL investigators" are on the league's direct payroll and were not witness to anything that went on in the Saints' meeting rooms. This is just further example of the kangaroo court Goodell had set up that day.

Countering the NFLPA and Vilma's argument that Goodell displayed bias throughout the league's appeals proceedings, the NFL said in the suit that Goodell had an obligation to make public statements about the players' suspensions to preserve "'public confidence' in the game of professional football."

The league made a similar argument in its motion to dismiss, filed against Vilma's request for an immediate restraining order of Goodell's suspension. It said that Vilma had "failed to exhaust his remedies under the CBA" and that there was no chance he would receiving (sic) a favorable ruling.

The three parties will convene on Monday in New Orleans in Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles' chambers for a settlement conference, though they will likely reach no compromise at that time.
Preserve public confidence in the game of professional football? The public never knew about this until the league made a grand declaration to the media summarizing their chosen view of it and unleashing their carefully planned PR campaign to support it and to manipulate public opinion through a totally unquestioning, obedient, and ravenous-for-scandal sports media.

It's difficult to know what really went on in the Saints' meeting rooms. All we can do is either believe the league or believe the players, coaches, and staff who were actually there during the past three years. Today's motion by the NFL seems to suggest they have little regard for the long term memory of the public. I know the people who haven't bothered to read the details outside of what the league claims and also actually listen to the players when they deny these accusations will continue to condemn the Saints. That's to be expected and, to tell the truth, I've learned to just ignore them anyway. What's frustrating is the NFL's insistence on sticking to their story no matter what. To suggest the players had a fair shot at that ridiculous appeals hearing is absurd. No one, not even Mike Freeman, believes that. With lawsuits pending against the league by former players arguing the NFL was for decades lax in their safety measures, I guess Goodell can't afford to back down now. This is especially true after the media storm they themselves carefully generated for this scandal.

It's safe to assume no settlement will be reached at Monday's conference. Both sides are dug in like World War I infantrymen. Where this story without end leads us next is anyone's guess.

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