When Bengals 101 and other outlets reported earlier this week that the NFL had handed down a three game suspension for Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson, Benson's response was that he had not been notified. Now, thanks to a report today from Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, we know why Benson was in the dark: He and seven other NFL players, including Bengals cornerback Adam "Pac Man" Jones, who were involved in off-the-field crimes during the lockout were essentially "given up" by the NFLPA during negotiations with the NFL.
In a letter to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA attorney Jeff Pash outlined the compromise made after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell publicly promised to discipline those players who had run afoul of the law during the work stoppage. The NFLPA took issue with this statement since their was no collective bargaining agreement in place at the time of the offenses. Cole and other sources are now reporting that Benson and Jones, along with Aqib Talib of Tampa Bay, New England's Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee's Kenny Britt, Green Bay's Johnny Jolly and Brandon Underwood (a Hamilton alum), and Arizona's Clark Haggans were specifically named as players whom the NFLPA would allow to be suspended by the NFL. The stated rationale was that these players were multiple offenders as opposed to other players arrested during the lockout like Pittsburgh's Hines Ward. What's strange, however, is that Haggans has no history of misconduct nor was there any report of him being arrested during the lockout.
As of this writing, Benson's suspension is the only one that has been announced in the media or has any details with regard to length. As stated above, however, Benson said he had not been notified of his suspension despite media reports that outlined the number of games and when his appeal was scheduled. Bengals 101 has not had any comment from Adam Jones or his representatives regarding his suspension.
This begs several questions, chief among them being Roger Goodell's latitude as NFL commissioner to mete out discipline. Goodell's acting as both the judge and source for appeal has come under fire from several NFL players, most recently Pittsburgh's union representative, Ryan Clark. With this apparent absence of due process, one has to wonder whether or not Goodell's methods, however well meaning they might be for the league's image, would hold up in court if challenged.
Another question is whether the NFLPA had standing to offer up these players at the time. The union had decertified, so technically could not act on behalf of the membership. Recall that the players had to vote to recertify before the new CBA could be ratified.
Of course the most troubling problem is that it would appear that both the union and the league arrived at this agreement without consulting the players or their representatives. While there's certainly no sympathy for any legal consequences these players might face for their misdeeds, whether or not the NFL as their employers has the right to act in this way is certainly ethically if not legally questionable.
Bengals 101 attempted to contact NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello but has yet to hear any response.
Cedric Benson reportedly will meet with Goodell on Tuesday of this week to appeal his suspension. It would seem that he and his attorney might be well-armed heading into this meeting with the way both the NFL and the NFLPA have handled this matter.
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