The NFL Players Association has sent former commissioner Paul Tagliabue a letter which seeks to clarify his position and potential conflicts of interest during the appeals process of the New Orleans Saints bounty matter, according to league and union sources.
Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Tagliabue as the hearing officer to decide the appeals of the four players suspended -- Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove -- in the Saints bounty case.
The letter asks three central questions of Tagliabue.
The first is if he can clear himself on the District of Columbia Bar's ethical regulations. "Rule 2.4," which states that you cannot be an arbitrator if you are associated with one of the parties, is referenced.
Second, the union asks what Tagliabue's involvement on the bounty situation has been, since Tagliabue is a partner at Covington & Burling, the firm that is representing the NFL in the players' lawsuits.
Third, the union asks Tagliabue to clarify his relationship with the NFL. On his bio at the law firm, Tagliabue is referred to as a business consultant for the NFL.
In the union's view, the letter could lead to four conclusions:
1) Tagliabue could agree that there are conflicts and recuse himself.
2) Tagliabue could say that he believes that the he can be a neutral arbitrator, and the union could disagree and ask him to recuse himself.
3) Tagliabue could convince all parties he can be neutral, which is unlikely given the union's position.
4) Tagliabue and the league could simply do nothing and move forward with the appeal.