Domonique Foxworth, former Baltimore Ravens cornerback and current president of the NFL Players Association wrote an Op Ed piece in the USA Today yesterday criticizing the NFL’s depiction of the NFLPA’s stance on the Bountygate situation and demanding to see actual evidence of player participation in the Bountygate scandal. ”There are people willingly misleading the public, saying that the NFL Players Association’s objections to the conduct of the “bounty” investigation conflicts with our deep, decades-long commitment to player health and safety,” he wrote.
As of yet, four current and former members of the New Orleans Saints have been punished in the wake of the Bountygate scandal: Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns (3 game suspension), Anthony Hargrove of the Green Bay Packers (8 game suspension), Will Smith of the Saints (4 game suspension), and Jonathan Vilma of the Saints (entire season suspension). In his article, Foxworth makes it clear that he is fully interested in increasing player safety – he opposed the 18-game season for instance, as well as supported brain trauma research and prevention – but he wants to ensure that players are not punished in the absence of evidence against them.
“Players have seen no specific, detailed evidence of player participation in a pay-to-injure program. We know a coach crossed the line, but where is the evidence that any players actually committed themselves financially or tactically to carrying out a “bounty” program?” writes Foxworth. ”Instead of transparent and fair due process for the four suspended players, the NFL chose news media leaks, character assassinations, PR campaigns and legal manipulation to mislead the public.”
Foxworth does raise some good points. Although I personally believe some if not all of the allegations leveled against the players who have been punished in this case, it could potentially harm Roger Goodell’s credibility if he doesn’t fork over all of the credible evidence against the players. Then again, if the appeal process goes into any sort of managed arbitration, Goodell will be compelled to release the evidence anyway.