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NFLPA asks court to require joint agreement on arbitrator

Jeffrey Kessler

NBA players association attorney Jeffrey Kessler arrives for a meeting in New York, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011. Player representatives from NBA teams are meeting to discuss the league’s proposal for a new labor deal. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has asked Judge Helen Berrigan to prevent former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue from serving as the arbitrator in the appeal of the bounty suspensions, and to appoint someone else to handle the matter. The NFLPA has made a similar, but not identical, request.

The union’s submission to Judge Berrigan on behalf of Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove asks that she require the parties to make a joint selection of the next arbitrator.

It’s a great idea, assuming there’s someone on whom the two sides would agree. If they agree on the arbitrator, neither side will be able to complain about the selection or, in turn, the result.

The NFLPA’s submission also attacks aggressively the decision to appoint Tagliabue. “It is difficult to imagine a choice that would more obviously fail the evident partiality test,” NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler writes. “First and foremost, Mr. Tagliabue has a fiduciary and ethical duty to serve the interests of his and his law firm’s clients: the NFL and Commissioner Goodell. Nonetheless, the NFL once again maintains that it is immune from any and all legal requirements and can conduct its arbitrations in any biased or unfair manner that it wishes. This is not the law.”

Underscoring the reality that the players had not previously asked Tagliabue to step aside, Kessler sent a separate letter on Wednesday to Tagliabue officially asking him to step down. Kessler asks a prompt ruling by Tagliabue, given that an appeal hearing has been set for October 30. Kessler also asks that Tagliabue, if he proceeds as arbitrator, agree to impose a one-week stay of the enforcement of the ruling, which would allow the players to attempt to obtain a temporary or permanent injunction against the ruling in court.

Plenty of you are sick of hearing about this stuff. I’ll explain why you shouldn’t be at 12:00 p.m. ET, in the opening segment of Thursday’s PFT Live. Right before I gloat to MDS about having a five-game lead in our picks contest.