Judge Berrigan apparently is trying to confirm — or debunk — the NFL’s claim that the decision to suspend the players already had been made at the time the league imposed discipline on the non-players. If the NFL hadn’t made the decision to suspend the players on or before March 21, then the statements made on March 21 by Goodell regarding Vilma could be viewed as unnecessary to the disciplinary process and thus not within the confines of Goodell’s job duties and, most importantly, completely beyond the scope of the labor agreement’s arbitration procedures.
In English, if Goodell actually hadn’t made the decision as to the players on March 21, Vilma’s defamation lawsuit can proceed in court.
At the August 10 hearing before Judge Berrigan, NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy reiterated the position that the decision was made as of March 21, but that the league waited at the union’s request. "[T]he Commissioner was prepared to issue his suspension decision with regard to the players at the same time that he disciplined the franchise and the coaches. But he held off doing that. He held off doing that because he was asked to do that by the Union, which represented to him that it was conducting its own investigation and no investigation ensued," Levy said.
Judge Berrigan seems to be calling B.S., in not-so-subtle fashion. And it’ll be interesting to see what the parties submit on Friday in response to her order.
If, in the end, the NFL can’t substantiate the contention that the NFLPA asked for the discipline to be delayed beyond March 21, the impact could extend beyond Vilma’s defamation claim. Judge Berrigan will have caught the league with its fingers in the cookie jar of fabrication, which will influence to some extent the manner in which she views any other factual claims made by the league.
Oh man! I so hope this blows up in Goodell's face!