NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has recused himself from Tuesday's appeals on bounty hearings four players suspended over the alleged program. According to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, Goodell informed him that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will now hear the appeal. Smith made the announcement on his Twitter account, and Goodell issued a statement about turning over the appeal to Tagliabue, who stepped down as commissioner after the 2005 season.
"I have held two hearings to date," Goodell said, "and have modified the discipline in several respects based on my recent meetings with the players. To bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion, I have appointed former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to serve as the hearing officer for the upcoming appeals. Paul Tagliabue is a genuine football authority whose tenure as commissioner was marked by his thorough and judicious approach to all matters. He has many years of experience in NFL collective bargaining matters and an impeccable reputation for integrity.
"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. Furthermore, under our process the hearing officer has full authority and complete independence to decide the appeal and determine any procedural issues regarding the hearings. I will have no role in the upcoming hearings or in Mr. Tagliabue's decisions."
Tagliabue, the NFL's commissioner from 1989-2006, will conduct hearings for the four players (Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma) on October 30 at a time and location to be determined by him. He will issue a decision as soon as possible after the hearings.
In a letter to DeMaurice Smith, Goodell said, "Commissioner Tagliabue's deep experience in professional football and his reputation for integrity and sound judgment, as well as his understanding of the CBA, the parties' past practices, issues surrounding player safety rules and the integrity of the game, make him singularly qualified to hear and decide the appeals in an efficient and fair manner for all concerned."
Tagliabue, an attorney, is chairman of the Georgetown University Board of Directors. Tagliabue was founding chairman of the Graduate Institute of International Commerce of the State University of New York. He has served on the boards of the United Way of America, the National Urban League, and on the boards of other non-profit organizations. Earlier this year, Tagliabue was honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation with its Humanitarian Award.
Meanwhile, former Vikings defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy ripped the NFL for linking him to the bounty scandal. Kennedy issued a statement through the NFLPA that detailed his anger over being called a witness to the alleged bounty program. The NFL said last week that Kennedy had informed league investigators that he told former Vikings head coach Brad Childress that the Saints had a bounty on former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2008 NFC Championship Game.
Here's a full text of the statement:
"The Commissioner of the NFL recently distributed a memo to all 32 NFL teams regarding the alleged Saints bounty program that contained blatant lies about me, thereby adding me to the list of men whose reputations and character have been irreparably damaged by the shoddy, careless, shameful so-called investigation behind this sham proceeding. Roger Goodell identifies me as the ?whistleblower? who approached former Viking coach Brad Childress about an alleged bounty on Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game.
"That is a lie. I had no knowledge about any alleged bounty to reveal to anyone, and I never informed anyone that I did. Contrary to the false information disseminated by the NFL, Coach Childress approached me and asked me if I knew anything about such an allegation, and I told him the truth: I did not. I had no knowledge of any such alleged bounty.
"Roger Goodell also states that I was interviewed by the NFL about the alleged bounty. That is another lie; I was never interviewed by the NFL, unless the NFL considers two 30-second conversations when I told NFL Security that I had no knowledge of any such allegations ?interviews.? I certainly do not.
"After the second phone call that I received from NFL, in which I once again told the person that I had absolutely no knowledge of any alleged bounty, I called my agent, who then retained an attorney for me. We informed the NFL Security person that further contact with me should occur through my attorney, and interestingly, we never heard from the NFL again.
"The third lie that Roger Goodell told about me is perhaps the most upsetting because it involves a man for whom I have great respect and affection, Anthony Hargrove. The NFL states that Anthony Hargrove told me about the alleged bounty on Brett Favre. That is an utter lie; it simply never happened. I never discussed an alleged bounty with Anthony Hargrove before, during or after the NFC Championship game. The only discussion I have had with Anthony about the alleged bounty occurred when we recently spoke about the NFL?s egregiously flawed and unjust investigation and proceeding.
I am not one of the players who has been officially disciplined by the NFL as part of this sham, but I now know that I too have been damaged by the NFL’?s complete disregard for truth and integrity."