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Thread: Jonathan Vilma sues Roger Goodell

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    Jonathan Vilma sues Roger Goodell

    Jonathan Vilma sues Roger Goodell

    Updated: May 17, 2012
    Associated Press

    NEW ORLEANS -- Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

    The suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans claims Goodell has made false statements about Vilma while discussing the NFL's bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints.

    Goodell has said Vilma was a leader of the team's bounty program that put up thousands of dollars for big hits on opposing teams' star players from 2009-11, including on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the playoffs in 2010.

    "Commissioner Goodell opted to make very public and unfortunately erroneous allegations against Jonathan," said Vilma's attorney, Peter Ginsberg. "By making these false and public statements, he has significantly harmed Jonathan's reputation and ability to make a living.

    "By suing commissioner Goodell in court, Jonathan opted to use a fair playing field where he has procedural rights and protections to remedy the harm Commissioner Goodell has done to him," Ginsberg added.


    Goodell has suspended Vilma for the entire season. Vilma and three other players who received shorter suspensions -- defensive end Will Smith, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker Scott Fujita -- all have appealed their punishments. Hargrove now plays for Green Bay while Fujita is with Cleveland.

    "We have not yet reviewed the filing," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "However, our commitment to player safety and the integrity of the game is our main consideration. We recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that need to be made."

    Vilma's lawsuit, which is expected to be heard by Judge Ginger Berrigan, asks for unspecified monetary damages.

    The players' association has said the league has refused to turn over what the union would view as hard evidence that Vilma or the other sanctioned players tried to intentionally injure targeted opponents or sponsored such behavior on the field.

    Ginsberg has echoed those complaints and said the federal lawsuit could force the NFL's hand.

    "It is certainly the case that in court, Jonathan will have a right to see whatever it is that commissioner Goodell has been hiding from us and what commissioner Goodell contends gave him a basis to make these false allegations," Ginsberg said. "We will have a fair and neutral judge to preside over the dispute rather than contending with the executioner also being the person making the final decision."


  2. #2
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    I hope goodell goes away, and takes his inconsistant leadership, and wussy league stuff with him.
    Steel City Mafia
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    My son's first Kansas Turkey!

  3. #3

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    Vilma right to take on dictator Roger

    UPDATED MAY 18, 2012

    Hell, yes, Jonathan Vilma should sue Roger Goodell.

    Someone has to stand against the NFL's well-intentioned, but wildly out-of-control, dictator. The elite NFL media, seduced by access and/or high-paying jobs on the television networks partnered with the national pastime, won't dare chop down Goodell to appropriate size, power and influence. And the NFL Players Association seemingly lacks the courage and resolve to regularly tussle with a commissioner corrupted by absolute power.

    So, yeah, in an effort to get justice, Jonathan Vilma has no choice but to drag Goodell into a courtroom. On paper, Vilma is suing for defamation. In reality, Vilma is suing to overturn a grossly excessive yearlong suspension for his limited and largely unproven role in the Saints bounty scandal.

    Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt — the New Orleans power structure that orchestrated, cultivated and embraced the bounty culture — confessed to and apologized for their email-documented and/or player-corroborated roles in the forbidden activity. Vilma has offered no confession or apology, and Goodell has yet to counter with hard and public evidence. Even if he has it, the yearlong suspension of Vilma is unfair, devoid of common sense and sets a dangerous precedent.

    Vilma — a 30-year-old player — is being punished far more harshly than Goodell's peers: Payton, Loomis and Vitt. A player has a short earning window. Vilma has played eight seasons. Knee injuries limited him last year. His career is winding down. He took a significant pay cut this offseason. The Saints signed several free-agent linebackers. Vilma's suspension could be career-ending.

    Payton, who also received a year-long suspension, can be an NFL head coach for the next 15 years. Vitt (six-game suspension) can be a high-paid assistant for the next 15 years. Loomis (four-game suspension) can hold a high-paying front-office job for the next 15 years. Goodell's peers — with the exception of Williams (suspended indefinitely) — can easily recoup their losses.

    The architects and the primary benefactors of the bounty scheme, the men who permanently enhanced their coaching resumes with a Super Bowl title, received lighter punishments than the defensive captain who has been trained since childhood to follow the lead of his coaches.

    Hell, yes, Jonathan Vilma should sue. Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove — the other suspended players — should join Vilma's lawsuit.

    Football is militaristic. Adherence to chain of command is strictly enforced. Groupthink and submission to the will and values of the coaching staff are rewarded.

    Vilma reflected his leaders. Does Goodell understand the culture he polices? I don't think he does. I think Goodell lives inside the cocoon of delusion we in the media and public have created for him. It's a cocoon that says professional athletes are stupid, irresponsible, lawless, spoiled, unworthy of their lofty salaries, undeserving of common respect and in desperate need of a law-and-order commissioner willing to discipline them.

    Kernels of truth do not form the foundation for a sophisticated, mature and fair leadership strategy of a position as powerful as NFL commissioner. Kernels of truth often mislead. Vilma was a three-time Academic All-Big East player at Miami. Of Haitian descent, he started a charitable foundation in support of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Vilma shouldn't be defined by his role in the Saints scandal.

    Last July, in the aftermath of Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison's anti-Goodell rant in Men's Journal magazine, I wrote about the foolishness of Goodell electing himself as the front man for the NFL's player-conduct policy and crackdown on dangerous hits.

    Goodell set himself up as the target of player animosity. His supporters might argue it's a courageous decision by a leader who is trying to implement historic change. They're wrong. It's bad business. It's the immature action of a man in love with his press clippings and intent on establishing himself as the modern-day Pete Rozelle. It's vanity, not integrity.

    Goodell wants us — media, fans, players, coaches, executives — to blindly trust that his motives are pure and just. No way. Trust the man/woman who tells you to solely trust his/her level of transparency and his/her willingness to have his/her actions vigorously questioned and reviewed.

    Goodell is a self-appointed Supreme Court justice. He makes all the rulings in the lower courts and then allows the men he governs to file appeals in his Supreme Court.

    Hell, yes, Jonathan Vilma should sue Roger Goodell. Vilma has no choice. The NFL doesn't have a system of checks and balances in place to oversee the commissioner. Goodell potentially delivered a death knell to Vilma's career.

    Even if he got caught up in the bounty culture fostered by the Saints' leaders, does Vilma deserve that, a suspension far more punitive than the one received by Payton?

    Hell, no. I hope Vilma wins his defamation lawsuit or Goodell is forced in a court of law to reveal the evidence that justifies such harsh punishment.


  4. #4
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    Great article. I agree with it all.
    Steel City Mafia
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    My son's first Kansas Turkey!

  5. #5

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    Jonathan Vilma: NFL wouldn’t give me evidence

    Posted by Josh Alper on May 31, 2012

    Jonathan Vilma says Roger Goodell’s refusal to show him evidence of his activities in the Saints bounty program is the reason why he didn’t speak to league’s investigators about it.

    “We asked for evidence and he wouldn’t give it to us,” Vilma told Ian Rapoport of “How can I defend myself when I don’t know what I’m defending against? It’s just logical, things that people decided to ignore.”

    Vilma’s attorney Peter Ginsberg also talked about a lack of evidence during a recent appearance on PFT Live. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has also publicly questioned the NFL’s evidence against the players suspended (Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove are the others) by the league.

    Rapoport writes that when Vilma, who is also suing Goodell for defamation, was asked whether or not the union advised him not to cooperate with the investigation, the linebacker responded by repeating the question about defending himself. Vilma, who again said that he neither paid nor intended to pay anyone was suspended for a full year by the NFL for his role in the program, although he and the other players suspended by the league are fighting the suspension.

    “He was invited to come in with his attorney to discuss the evidence prior to any decision on discipline,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello in response to Vilma. “He declined. He has another opportunity to do so in his appeal. The union has been shown evidence.”


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    Burbank’s ruling doesn’t prove, or disprove, the existence of a bounty system

    Posted by Mike Florio on June 5, 2012

    Headlines can be misleading, intentionally or otherwise. Monday’s development in the bounty case — the decision by Stephen Burbank to reject one of the grievances filed by the NFLPA on behalf of the suspended players — has been interpreted by many as a decision that the appeals have failed and that the suspension will be served.

    That’s not what it means.

    The gist of the nine-page ruling is that, while Burbank has the sole ability to determine whether teams have violated the salary cap via additional payments to players above and beyond their contracts, that rule doesn’t apply to the three players accused of funding the alleged bounty pool, since the players aren’t the “team.”

    That’s it. Sometimes (OK, rarely), it really is that simple.

    As the NFLPA’s statement in response to the decision points out, Burbank concludes his ruling by explaining clearly what the decision is not — “nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.”

    In light of the language of the labor deal, Burbank likely made the right call. As to Packers defensive Anthony Hargrove, over whose claim Burbank retained jurisdiction pending clarification by the NFL as to the behavior for which he has been punished, Burbank gave the NFL a clear roadmap for keeping the discipline away from Burbank’s authority.

    The NFLPA still has a pending grievance that attacks Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to punish any players for conduct occurring before the current labor deal was signed in August 2011, and that argues the appeals should be handled by Ted Cottrell or Art Shell. The players could win on either of those points.

    Besides, the appeals still have to be handled on the merits (unless the NFLPA prevails on its argument that player are immune for anything that happened before August 2011). If Goodell hears the appeals and upholds the suspensions, a legal challenge may be pursued on the back end.

    Thus, the NFLPA initially has failed in its effort to shift the process away from Goodell and to Stephen Burbank. That’s all that happened.

    And that decision will be appealed, so there’s still a chance that the players will prevail on that point.

    So regardless of how badly you may want all of this to be over, there’s still a long way to go.


  7. #7

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    Goodell to hear bounty appeals June 18

    Posted by Mike Florio on June 6, 2012

    Despite a pending grievance questioning his authority to discipline four players for involvement in the Saints’ alleged bounty system and an expected appeal of a separate grievance that raises a similar point, Commissioner Roger Goodell will conduct hearings on the appeals of the quartet of suspensions.

    Steve Wyche of NFL Network reports that the hearings will proceed on June 18 as to Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (who was suspended a full season), Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove (eight games), and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).

    The hearing date has been picked even though arbitrator Shyam Das has yet to rule on the questions of whether the new labor deal blocks any discipline against players for conduct happening before August 2011, and whether the appeals should be heard by Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who review penalties imposed for on-field misconduct.

    A separate grievance arguing that the penalties fall within the jurisdiction of System Arbitrator Richard Burbank, who handles alleged violations of the salary cap, will be appealed by the NFLPA. Burbank ruled earlier this week that he has no jurisdiction over the suspensions.

    The rules applicable to the hearings before Goodell aren’t known. Will evidence of guilt be provided to the players so that they can prepare to challenge the league’s case with arguments, documents, witnesses, or other tactics? Or will the league simply rely on summaries or characterizations of evidence? Will witnesses supporting the league’s claims testify? How much time will be allotted to the process?

    Depending on whether and to what extent the players believe a fair process will be utilized, don’t be shocked if one or more of the players (most likely, Vilma) refuse to proceed. Then again, submitting to an unfair process could make it easier to attack the final decision in court, after the fact.


  8. #8

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    Players will get evidence three days before bounty hearing

    Posted by Mike Florio on June 7, 2012

    With Commissioner Roger Goodell setting the bounty appeal hearings for Monday, June 18, questions linger regarding the procedures to be used and, most importantly, whether the NFL will share raw evidence of the bounty system with the players who are challenging their suspensions: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

    Per a source with knowledge of the proceedings, the league is required by the CBA to disclose the evidence it plans to rely upon during the appeal hearings three days in advance of the sessions.

    That’s not a blanket requirement that the league open its files. Instead, the league must produce only what it plans to use.

    Thus, if there is evidence that points to innocence, the league isn’t required to give it to the players and the NFLPA.

    Though, in theory, the league could keep its intended evidence simple in light of the fact that Goodell has full authority over the appeals, the final outcome most likely will be subject to attack in court. The more slanted and biased the process seems, the more effective the players arguments for relief will become. Thus, if the league holds back evidence, the suspensions could be more vulnerable to being overturned by a federal judge.

    Given that the league plans to conduct all four appeal hearings on the same day, it’s unlikely that the NFL will use a lengthy, complex presentation of evidence. Few if any trials can be completed in one day; the idea that four hearings involving hotly disputed allegations can be conducted on June 18 suggests that the procedures are more perfunctory than meaningful.

    The players will have a much better sense of how detailed the process will be next Friday, when the NFL hands over the evidence that will be used.


  9. #9

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    League files grievance against Vilma for pursuing defamation case

    Posted by Mike Florio on July 12, 2012

    Things have quieted down a bit in connection with the Saints bounty scandal, but the present calm comes merely from a minor break in the storms.

    Eventually, the lawsuits filed recently in Louisiana will heat up, with inevitable efforts to block the suspension pending the outcome to the courtroom challenges to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s exercise of power over the players. As to the defamation claim filed by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma against Goodell, the NFL has thrown down the proverbial gloves.

    Vilma has disclosed on Twitter that the league has asked him, perhaps not politely, to abandon the case.

    Jonathan Vilma via twitter:

    The nfl sent me a letter "demanding" I drop my defamation suit or or else wat?!?? They no likey me lawsuitey
    11 Jul 12

    Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the more accurate description is that the NFL has filed a grievance under the CBA against the NFLPA and Vilma seeking an order forcing Vilma to dismiss his defamation suit. On Wednesday, lawyer Peter Ginsberg informed the league that Vilma will not be withdrawing the defamation suit, arguing that the grievance filed by the league has no merit.

    The letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained, contends that the grievance procedure contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t apply in this case, because Vilma filed his suit not “against the NFL or any Club” but against Goodell, and because the defamation claim arises not from the suspension imposed by Goodell on Vilma but from the allegedly false public statements made by Goodell before imposing discipline.

    The grievance “constitutes an improper effort to interfere with a pending judicial matter,” Ginsberg writes in his letter to Dennis Curran, NFL Sr. Vice President of Labor Litigation & Policy. “If you pursue the Grievance, we will consider seeking sanctions against the NFL [Management Council] before Honorable Helen G. Berrigan . . . based on NFLMC’s improper attempt to obstruct a pending judicial action in which it is not a party.”

    So, yes, as Vilma surmises, the NFL “no likey [his] lawsuitey.” And Vilma’s lawyer doesn’t like how the NFL is voicing its displeasure.

    And the end result is that the ever-twisting-and-turning bounty case has developed yet another twist and/or turn.


  10. #10

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    Sources: Jonathan Vilma offered deal

    Updated: August 6, 2012
    By Ed Werder, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen |

    The NFL has offered to reduce New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's year-long suspension to eight games as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players who were suspended for their alleged participation in the team's bounty program from 2009-2011, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

    The league's offer was made late last week but it is conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging commissioner Roger Goodell with defamation of character, sources said. Vilma has expressed his strong feelings about his tainted reputation.

    The talks could also lead to reductions in the suspensions of the other three players -- Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (eight games), and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).

    Settlement talks are expected to continue Monday and sources say that Friday's next scheduled appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan could serve as a soft deadline to reach a settlement. The two sides filed more arguments in the Louisiana court this past Friday in advance of this week's hearing.

    The original hearing was conducted on July 26th as Judge Berrigan was deciding on whether to grant a temporary restraining order on behalf of the four players who were suspended by Goodell.

    Judge Berrigan expressed concerns about Goodell's actions during the first hearing in which seven members of the Saints testified that they never witnessed Vilma offering $10,000 to any teammate who injured opposing quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009-2010 playoffs. Those who testified also denied there was a pay-to-injure bounty program, including Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, who will serve his own six-game suspension to open the season.

    While sources said league attorneys have urged Goodell to offer reductions in the suspensions as a settlement, a league official reiterated Goodell's position that if the players had participated fully in the appeals process, the commissioner may have reduced the penalties as he has with other players who have been disciplined in other cases. The league official also noted that the current legal proceeding began with a settlement conference.

    Saints owner Tom Benson has privately expressed his displeasure with Goodell on the severity of the sanctions that hit the franchise, including a year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton and an eight-game suspension of general manager Mickey Loomis, according to sources.

    Payton and Loomis are not part of the legal proceedings that are currently active in federal court. A source speculated that if the federal judge rules in favor of the players then Benson could push for Goodell to consider a reduction in Payton's suspension. A team source downplayed that scenario.

    The Saints opened their preseason slate with a 17-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

    When asked his thoughts about the possibility of a reduced suspension for Vilma, New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins said it'd be "huge" for both the veteran linebacker and the rest of the league's players.

    "I think it would be a huge victory especially for Jon and for the NFL -- the players to finally kind of show a little bit of power."

    Offensive tackle Zach Strief said it's been tough to watch Vilma go through the process.

    "The hardest thing going through this process is seeing a guy, you know what kind of person he is, kinda be dragged through the mud like that," Strief said.

    Veteran safety Roman Harper added that Vilma's "fighting for who he is, it's all about his family name and all the great things that he's done on and off the field and I back him 100 percent and I know the truth and we all know that he's doing what he needs to do."



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