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NFL Players Attack Commissioner Goodell’s Authority In Grievances

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

The NFL Players Association is not accepting commissioner Roger Goodell’s harsh suspensions in the New Orleans Saints bounty program case — or his seemingly all-encompassing power. Indeed, the union is fighting back.

The Players Association filed a pair of grievances Thusday challenging Goodell’s authority to suspend four players for their involvement in Saint’s bounty system.

In the first, filed with arbitrator Shyam Das, the NFLPA argues that Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any conduct prior to August 4, when the current collective bargaining agreement took effect.

“In connection with entering into the 2011 CBA, the NFL released all players from conduct engaged in prior to the execution of the CBA, on August 4, 2011,” the grievance says.

The section of the CBA cited by the union is a covenant not to sue — an agreement in which the NFL and its teams pledged not to file lawsuits against the union and its members “with respect to conduct occurring prior to the execution of this Agreement.”

But the league said that section of the CBA was not intended as an agreement to excuse player conduct that put player safety at risk, or conduct detrimental to the NFL.

The NFLPA further argues that even if that argument fails, the appeal of the player suspensions should be heard by Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, the hearing officers for on-field conduct violations, rather than by Goodell as an off-field conduct issue.

In the second grievance, the NFLPA argues that arbitrator Stephen Burbank, who serves as the “system arbitrator” for the league and its players’ union, has the authority to rule on the players’ conduct, rather than Goodell.

According to the NFLPA grievance, the bounties, as non-disclosed payments to players, are a collective bargaining issue under the jurisdiction of the arbitrator and not Goodell.

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