NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has rejected the appeals of four players suspended in connection with the New Orleans Saints bounty program.
Goodell announced his ruling on Tuesday, one week after meeting with Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita.
With the decision behind them the players now plan to sue Commissioner Goodell and the NFL in federal court.
The four suspended men refused to meet with Goodell personally, arguing that he lacked the jurisdiction to hand down suspensions. According to all four players Goodell’s decision-making violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement by making public statements about the case, thereby demonstrating that he can not be a neutral arbitrator.
Vilma has the most to lose, Goodell suspended him for the entire 2012 season and in response Vilma filed two lawsuits in federal court in New Orleans. In the first case Vilma claims Goodell defamed him and in the other he filed against Goodell and the NFL to earn a temporary injunction which would allow him to play until the court battle was concluded.
The other three men are also filing lawsuits in order to receive temporary restraining orders to continue play.
In a statement from the NFL Players Association the union said it is pursuing all avenues:
“The players are disappointed with the league’s conduct during this process. We reiterate our concerns about the lack of fair due process, lack of integrity of the investigation and lack of the jurisdictional authority to impose discipline under the collective bargaining agreement.
“Moreover, the commissioner took actions during this process that rendered it impossible for him to be an impartial arbitrator.”
Vilma is seeking a quick temporary injunction because he is currently rehabilitating a left knee injury at the New Orleans Saints training headquarters.