The suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove has been placed on hold. Friday a three man panel lifted the suspensions and the NFL reinstated the players, making them eligible to play in Week 1.
The suspensions aren’t voided, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can still impose a penalty that could result in the players being suspended or fine.
According to Greg Aiello, he expects Goodell to determine an appropriate discipline in a timely manner. However, until then, the players are able to play until such a decision is made.
Drew Brees, who was a staunch supporter of his current teammates’ battle, when asked by Ed Werder, was quoted as saying;
“I think it is an extremely strong statement that a three-judge panel unanimously ruled to lift the suspensions. It makes you feel like they took a very hard look at all the evidence there and saw that we were in the right. Today makes you feel like justice has been served.”
While I do understand the players need to celebrate this small victory, we can’t overlook the fact that in a couple weeks they could be suspended again. While we may never know all the details to what happened during the 2011 CBA negotiations, it makes you question why the NFLPA didn’t fight harder to have someone besides Commissioner Goodell levy their punishments.
While we can bandy about if Commissioner Goodell was being heavy handed with his discipline, in the end, it’s futile as it is the power he has and that‘s not going to change.
Hopefully this is a lesson for all parties involved. For the players, do what you can to stay out of trouble so you don’t have to answer to the heavy handed Goodell. If you do happen to have the need to explain your transgression, fight. If you believe you’re being unfairly punished there’s nothing saying you have to just take it. Learn from these four players who held their stance that they were innocent of what they were being accused of. In the end, their choice of fighting ended up working in their favor.
For Roger Goodell, perhaps you shouldn’t be so gung ho with the discipline you hand out. I understand that you have an image of the league that you are looking to uphold. However, there comes a point you don’t want to alienate your employees. You want to be respected by those who work for and around you. Growing sentiment with the players is you don’t care about them, and the punishment you dole out is to satisfy your own agenda. While that may not be true, it’s what they perceive and it’s up to you to change it.
Hopefully the relationship between the players and owners/commissioner gets better. However, considering the players are replaceable and owners aren’t going to fire themselves, it probably won’t.