NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided to uphold his own ruling of the unprecedented suspensions he’s handed to Saints Coach Sean Payton and others in the bounty scandal. A sports law expert at Tulane University says there’s little else that can be done to avert the punishment.
Gabe Feldman is director of Tulane’s sports law program, and has been busy lately explaining how Commissioner Goodell could suspend Payton for a full year – the toughest penalty of its kind in the NFL. Feldman says the owners agreed to give the commissioner full power over players’ off-field misconduct.
“It might seem unfair to an outsider but this was part of a negotiated contract, and if the parties didn’t want to give the commissioner this power they shouldn’t have given him this power. But now, they’re basically, by appealing to a court, they’d be trying to undo the terms of the contract.”
Targeting competitors for injury – the basis of the bounty scandal – could be subject to criminal charges, but Feldman says it’s unlikely. Jurors may find it impossible to differentiate a tackle from a tackle designed to cause injury.
“That is part of the sport of football. You are supposed to tackle the person on the other team. That doesn’t happen anywhere outside of professional football, so it’s impossible to draw analogies to the bounty system and the injuries that occur on a football field to injuries that might occur in other industries.”
Feldman says he doesn’t expect any changes in the commissioner’s powers for at least a decade. That’s how long the current collective bargaining agreement is in effect for players and owners.