I'll say this right off the bat: This entire NFL "bountygate" scandal has been confusing. Frustratingly confusing, actually.
And now that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has issued his ruling on the matter, in theory bringing some closure this mess, the confusion has only continued.
Tagliabue, tapped by current commissioner Roger Goodell to handle a second round of appeals by the four New Orleans Saints players implicated in the scandal, announced on Tuesday that he was vacating those players suspensions--even though he concluded that the players did, in fact, engage in conduct detrimental to the league.
In a statement explaining his somewhat muddled ruling, Tagliabue seemed to hint that the entire Saints organization, not the players, was really to blame for the scandal. Hence his decision to drop the suspensions. I guess.
Said Tagliabue: "Unlike Saints' broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organization."
Goodell did not respond to the ruling, but the league issued a statement indicating that it respected Tagliabue's conclusion. That decision, the league said, "underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters." The league then went on to reiterate once more that, yes, the scandal did happen and, yes, the team did do some bad stuff and, yes, the league needed to respond in a big way. Which is why they did so.
As for the players involved?
Well, already, the attorney for linebacker Jonathan Vilma has indicated that he might pursue a defamation lawsuit against the league. Because, you know, Vilma still says he didn't do anything wrong. Which is kind of what Tagliabue has hinted at by vacating those suspensions. But, yeah, again, the league still says this thing happened.
Like I said, it's confusing. And it's not over yet.- Tim Hyland
Photo: Getty Images