The NFL announced today that the player suspensions associated with the Bountygate investigation had been upheld by Roger Goodell, effectively ending the saga. The key here is that Goodell expressed that he still reserves the right to reduce suspensions if new evidence/statements are brought forward. The most telling portion of Goodell’s statement follows:
“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’ determinations.”
The decision was expected by almost everyone covering Bountygate, but what I didn’t expect is such an in-depth parting shot by Goodell. It wasn’t necessarily essential for Goodell to explain his decision in detail, but that’s exactly what he chose to do. You can read more of what Goodell wrote here if you’re interested in everything he had to say.
Goodell’s parting shot points directly at the problems with the entire Bountygate investigation. There are holes on both sides of the story. The NFL has been unwilling to release damning evidence that indicates Saints’ players and coaches were involved in a bounty program. On the other hand, the players were unwilling/unable to show us anything that indicated they were not responsible or guilty of the actions the NFL accused them of.
At the end of the day, Roger Goodell is the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to missteps by players in the NFL. I don’t believe he’d penalize players and coaches so severely if he wasn’t confident in the evidence before him. It seems there will always be some debate regarding what was actually going on in New Orleans, but at least we can begin thinking about football instead of Bountygate now that it’s virtually over.