NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL players union has challenged Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to suspend players who participated in the New Orleans Saints' pay-for-pain scandal and wants him removed from hearing appeals.
The union filed a grievance late Thursday, one day after Goodell suspended four players who participated in bounties from 2009-11. The complaint says Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any aspect of the case occurring before the new collective bargaining agreement was signed last August. It argues that a CBA system arbitrator, and not Goodell, has the right to decide player punishment under such circumstances, as well as rule on any appeals.
In a document obtained by The Associated Press, the union told the league Goodell "released all players from conduct engaged in prior to execution of the CBA."
"Thus, even assuming for the sake of argument that the commissioner had the authority to punish players for conduct detrimental under the alleged facts and circumstances of this particular situation — he does not — he nevertheless would be prohibited from punishing NFL players for any aspect of the alleged 'pay-for-performance/bounty' conduct occurring before Aug. 4, 2011," the union said.
Last August, the league agreed not to file lawsuits against players regarding detrimental conduct that occurred prior to signing the new CBA. But the clause the union cites doesn't deal with conduct detrimental to the league that endangered player safety over three seasons.
Earlier this week, Goodell suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012 season; defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, for eight games; defensive end Will Smith, for four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, for three games.
The union said the suspensions violate the league's "duty of fairness to players," and that the process "violated various procedural requirements of the collective bargaining agreement, including limits of Goodell's authority over the matter and failure to disclose sufficient evidence of the violations."
"There is an article in the CBA that the players release certain claims against the league and another that says the league releases all claims for conduct that occurred prior to the new CBA," union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said.
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