Roger Goodell appointed his predecessor as NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, to hear the appeals of the four players suspended in the bounty scandal involving the New Orleans Saints, the league announced Friday.
Goodell said he enlisted Tagliabue’s involvement “to bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion.” The NFL announced that Tagliabue will hold hearings on Oct. 30 and issue a ruling “as soon as possible” afterward.
The league concluded earlier this year that the Saints improperly paid players cash for hits that injured opponents. The players have denied the allegations and challenged the penalties in court.
The players’ union had sought Goodell’s removal as the hearing officer for the players’ appeals. DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, wrote on Twitter that Goodell told him he had removed himself from hearing the appeals. The union declined further comment.
The sport’s collective bargaining agreement gives Goodell the authority to decide the appeals or appoint someone else to do so.
“To be clear, I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter nor has he been any part of the process,” Goodell said in a written statement. Tagliabue will have full authority and complete independence to decide the appeals, he said.
“Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters,” Goodell said in a written statement released by the league. “He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.”
Goodell re-issued the players’ suspensions earlier this month. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is facing a full-season suspension and defensive end Will Smith is suspended for four games. Former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita was suspended for one game and former defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove was suspended for seven.
The re-issued suspensions came after an appeals panel established by the sport’s labor agreement had overturned the original suspensions and sent them back to Goodell for reconsideration based on a jurisdictional issue raised by the union.