Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell does have the authority to discipline Saints players for their role in the team’s bounty program.
The NFLPA challenged Goodell’s power after the commissioner suspended four players, including LB Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season. The players have appealed their suspensions.
Burbank did retain temporary jurisdiction on DT Anthony Hargrove’s role and asked Goodell for more information on Hargrove’s “alleged participation.”
“(Burbank) invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation,” the league said in a statement.
Five days prior, the NFLPA argued that Burbank should have the authority to impose penalties on the players because their role in the bounty program was more of a salary-cap issue. Burbank ruled that the players’ behavior was “conduct detrimental,” which gives Goodell the power to handle the discipline.
The NFLPA released the following statement on Burbank’s ruling, announcing they will appeal his decision:
“Any pay-to-injure program runs counter to the health and safety principles we stand for as players. However, none of the players punished in this case have seen a shred of evidence justifying the NFL’s punishment.
In the opinion, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank wrote, “(I)t is important to emphasize — with respect to all of the Players — that nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.”
"The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players.”