Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma - one of the players involved in 'Bountygate'.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma - one of the players involved in 'Bountygate'.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma - one of the players involved in 'Bountygate'.

NFL: 'Bountygate' players have suspensions lifted after appeal

The four players involved in the New Orleans Saints 'cash-for-hits' row are free to play after having their bans overturned by an appeal hearing.

Four NFL players suspended for their roles in a cash-for-hits bounty scheme have had their bans overturned.

Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita were all suspended by Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, seven months ago for their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty programme that saw players given financial rewards for injuring opponents from 2009-2011.

Vilma had been suspended for the entire 2012 season, while Hargrove was originally given an eight-game penalty. Smith was banned for four games and Fujita was slapped with a three-game suspension.

The Saints were also fined $500,000 and forfeited second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.

Each of the four players were permitted to play regular season games while the appeals process was underway.

But while backing the league's main findings on the bounty scheme, Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL Commissioner appointed to handle the appeals, ruled that the players should not be banned.

"Unlike Saints' broad organisational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects," Tagliabue said.

"My affirmation of commissioner Goodell's findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints' organisation."

The ruling is the latest twist in a scandal that rocked one of the NFL's premier franchises and included a season-long ban for Saints head coach Sean Payton and an indefinite suspension for former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

The NFL said it "respected" Tagliabue's ruling and that a strong message had been sent.

"We respect Mr Tagliabue's decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters," the NFL said in a statement.

"The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty programme in violation of league rules for three years, that the programme endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league."

Tagliabue interviewed the four players, as well as other witnesses, including members of the Saints' staff at the time.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) welcomed Tagliabue's decision, saying he had agreed with their own view that the discipline was inappropriate.

"Vacating all discipline affirms the players' unwavering position that all allegations the league made about their alleged 'intent-to-injure' were utterly and completely false. We are happy for our members," the NFLPA said in a statement.

Drew Brees, the New Orleans quarterback, whose team has struggled this season and appears likely to miss the playoffs, was also pleased with the verdict.

"Congratulations to our players for having the suspensions vacated," Brees wrote on his Twitter account. "Unfortunately, there are some things that can never be taken back."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament was kicking off at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with plenty of excitement in store. Ravindranath K / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

The first match in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, was held at Zayed Cricket Stadium amid plenty of colour.

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike qualifies Al Jazira for last 16 of Asian Champions League

A dramatic late goal gave Al Jazira a 3-2 victory at Al Rayyan of Qatar in the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night and it was just enough to push Walter Zenga’s side into the knockout stages.

 Zayed Cricket Stadium had not witnessed so electrcic an atmosphere before Wednesday evening. Pawan Singh / The National

Packed house gathers in Abu Dhabi for Indian Premier League opener

In less than half a day, Zayed Cricket Stadium witnessed the force that is Indian cricket, with the sound drowning out the controversies that have dogged the Twenty20 tournament, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks down after being defeated during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images

Plenty of life still in Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Barcelona coach maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

 Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg at the official press conference following qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1: Toto Wolff says Mercedes have all the right ingredients in place

With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes have so far dominated the first three grands prix going into this weekend’s fourth round in China.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, left, reacts as Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during their English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 16, 2014. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP PHOTO/Andrew YATES

Poyet says ‘I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy’ after Sunderland draw at Manchester City

Sunderland’s survival chances remain slim because now they face Chelsea away at the weekend but manager Gus Poyet insists they are not trying to benefit Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National