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NFLPA will appeal Burbank decision

Bounties Saints Players Football

FILE - From left are NFL football players Jonathan Vilma, in 2011; Anthony Hargrove, in 2010; Will Smith, in 2011; and Scott Fujita, in 2011. New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL, one of four players punished Wednesday, May 2, 2012, for participating in the team’s cash-for-hits bounty system. Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of this season; Saints defensive end Will Smith was barred for the opening four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, will miss the first three games. All of the suspensions are without pay. (AP Photo/File)


The NFLPA has issued a statement in response to arbitrator Stephen Burbank’s decision to reject the NFLPA’s argument that he should determine whether or not Saints players violated rules regarding whether players were paid as part of a bounty program.

The union will appeal the decision to the Appeals Panel provided under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Per their statement, the union “believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players.”

It’s important to note that Burbank’s decision has nothing to do with how the players will be punished. As he wrote in his decision and the NFLPA quotes in its statement, “nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.” This is a procedural issue about who decides the penalties and Burbank’s opinion is that power should rest with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

A separate grievance still sits in front of another arbitrator asking whether the new CBA prevents Goodell from imposing any discipline on players for conduct occurring before it was signed. That grievance also asks whether the appeals should be handled by Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA to review discipline imposed by Goodell for on-field misconduct.