NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has officially recused himself from the appeal hearings for the players who were suspended as a result of the Saints Bountygate. According to CBS Sports, the appeal will be heard by ex-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
This news may come as a shock to most observers of the situation. Goodell has established a reputation as a firm leader and the fact that he is ceding power in this case comes as a surprise. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith broke the news that Commissioner Goodell told him that he would be stepping away from the situation.
I have been in touch with Roger. He has formally notified me that he will recused himself. Paul Tagliabue will step in.— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) October 19, 2012
The move may be a bit of surprise, but it really is what is best for the NFL at this point. Between the recent NFL lockout, the recurring issue with concussions and the handling of the Bountygate case to this point, the NFL's image has taken a considerable hit under Goodell's watch.
The way Goodell has handled Bountygate has been especially perplexing. The league office initially handed down suspensions for four players involved in the scandal in May but the suspensions were later vacated by a three-member panel that felt Goodell needed to further clarify why the players were facing suspension.
Goodell reinstated the penalties last week and thus the need for yet another appeal was born.
Goodell's persistence in seeing that these players serve suspensions for their role in the case does not look good for the NFL. The perception that this case is nothing more than a manhunt against Vilma and a few others looks closer to reality than what the NFL would like.
However, with Tagliabue now in charge of the appeal hearing, NFL fans can take some comfort in knowing that these players are much more likely to get a fair hearing. The players' should never have had their appeal heard by the man that doled out the suspensions in the first place and Tagliabue, as a former NFL Commissioner, has experience in these types of issues.
Hopefully this means a just and swift end to a case that has been a black-eye to the NFL for long enough.