NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove.
In his letter to the players, Commissioner Goodell noted that:
“Throughout this entire process, including your appeals, and despite repeated invitations and encouragement to do so, none of you has offered any evidence that would warrant reconsideration of your suspensions. Instead, you elected not to participate meaningfully in the appeal process…”
“Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,’ your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental’ eterminations…”
Commissioner Goodell reiterated the process followed prior to determining discipline:
“In sum, I did not make my determinations here lightly. At every stage, I took seriously my responsibilities under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I determined the discipline for each of you
(1) only after a long, detailed and professional investigation by NFL Security’s experienced investigators;
(2) only after the results of that investigation were carefully reviewed by an independent expert, former United States Attorney Mary Jo White;
(3) only after I heard the appeals of the Saints’ coaches and staff regarding discipline for their roles in the program;
(4) only after representatives of NFL Security, along with Mr. Pash and Mr. Birch, spoke with Players Association attorneys at length regarding the investigation; and
(5) only after giving each of you multiple opportunities to meet with the NFL investigators and to share with them your version of the events surrounding the program. The suspensions imposed were reasonable action taken to preserve public confidence in, and the integrity of, the game of professional football.”
The commissioner further stated:
“While this decision constitutes my final and binding determination under the CBA, I of course retain the inherent authority to reduce a suspension should facts be brought to my attention warranting the exercise of that discretion. The record confirms that each of you was given multiple chances to meet with me to present your side of the story. You are each still welcome to do so.”
The National Football Players Association released the following statement in response:
“The players are disappointed with the League’s conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement. Moreover, the Commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.
The NFLPA has never and will never condone dangerous or reckless conduct in football and to date, nothing the League has provided proves these players were participants in a pay-to-injure program. We will continue to pursue all options.”