A three-person appeals panel overturned Roger Goodell's suspensions of Jonathon Vilma and three other players. The players were ruled eligible to play - but it may be a temporary victory.
In the wake of the decision, Vilma tweeted: "Victory is mine!!!!"
Vilma may want to hold back though, as the appeals panel decision may merely just delay Roger Goodell from handing down the exact same penalty again, this time outside of the purview of the appeals panel, reports The New York Times. So what gives?
The appeals process and the three-person panel that ruled on the player suspensions is a process created by the NFL collective bargaining agreement. The owners and the players negotiated on this checks and balance of the commissioner's power, and set up several areas of exclusive jurisdiction, reports the Times.
For example, for conduct detrimental to the league, Commissioner Roger Goodell would have exclusive jurisdiction to suspend players like Jonathon Vilma. On the other hand, for salary cap violations, an appeals panel would have exclusive jurisdiction outside of the commissioner's purview, reports the Times.
Jonathon Vilma and his player representatives basically argued that the alleged bounty scandal was a salary cap issue (players got paid to injure other players), and so Commissioner Roger Goodell did not have the authority to suspend.
The three-person appeals panel agreed with Vilma on this issue. However, the appeals panel also found that the bounty scandal could also be considered conduct detrimental to the league -- an issue Goodell does have power over.
In effect, the appeals panel gave the issue back to the commissioner and told him to spell out for which reason the suspensions were for. Roger Goodell could easily hand down the exact same suspensions, this time stipulating that the penalties are for conduct detrimental to the league, as opposed to salary cap violations. So Jonathon Vilma may want to hold off a bit before making any more celebratory tweets.