Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 May 2012

Jonathan Vilma Sues Goodell for Defamation

Do comissioners actually have to turn over things like "proof" and "evidence" in the court of law these days? Looks like we're about to find out!

"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."

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 17 May 2012

78 comments, Last at 28 May 2012, 3:20pm by WhyArts


by ian :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 6:47pm

A disgruntled employee, who is in the eyes of the law a celebrity, is bringing a defamation suit against the CEO of a for-profit corporation that, while following its own internal proceedures for due process and in accordance with the standing labor agreement, suspends said employee for violations of internal rules and subsequently makes public statements explaining why.

Either this is a non-event or the professional sports as we know it is going to change dramatically. Yay. :|

by Sophandros :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 9:47pm

It's not completely clear that Goodell is acting in accordance with the standing labor agreement on this, as he punished Vilma for something that allegedly occurred during the PRIOR agreement.

Sports SHOULD change drastically--at least how they are reported. No one in the media did the responsible thing, which would be to demand that the commissioner actually provide evidence to justify his actions. At no point did any fans other than Saints fans demand evidence to support the suspensions.

That has to change.

Yes, I understand that I'm asking for the sports media and fans to understand that it's LOGICAL to demand proof from someone who is making a claim.

That's the most frustrating thing about all of this. It seems that everyone just took the commissioner's word on all of these allegations instead of saying, "OK, so you're making these accusations. They sound REALLY, REALLY BAD. Maybe you should give us some proof of that." But no. It became a front page story in SI. ESPN ran with it for weeks. Public opinion became that the Saints were "cheaters" (despite, you know, the absolute lack of any evidence of cheating), and everyone in the Saints organization was labeled as a bad guy. Fortunately, things have been leaking out lately. The league has been manipulating and misrepresenting evidence and controlling the narrative in a manner that hasn't been seen since the Salem.

So much on the league's side doesn't add up, and getting the information out there for everyone to examine is either going to prove Goodell correct or vindicate the Saints. I'm thinking that the fact that Goodell hasn't released anything, coupled with the fact that his player punishments don't even touch any activities in 2010 and 2011 (the reason that was given for Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Gregg Williams, and Joe Vitt's suspensions was that they were carrying on a bounty program during the 2010 and 2011 seasons--the infamous, out of context, video snippet of Williams' pregame speech was marched out as "evidence"...) tells me that they don't have any evidence of anything going on because there was no bounty program. This is why Vilma is suing today.

Goodell is trying to cover the league's ass with regards to the concussion lawsuit. He's trying to build an image of the league that is concerned with player safety. Today's statement about the suit confirms that, in my opinion.

I hope that when it is shown that they lack evidence to suspend Vilma, public opinion will shift and people will demand that Payton, Loomis, Vitt, and Williams are also reinstated.

And I hope Goodell steps down.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:19am

The league has been manipulating and misrepresenting evidence and controlling the narrative in a manner that hasn't been seen since the Salem.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

LOL. I had to laugh.

by Dean :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 8:45am

"I'm thinking that the fact that Goodell hasn't released anything ... tells me that they don't have any evidence of anything going on because there was no bounty program."

Doesn't that make you just as guilty of jumping to conclusions as those whom you're criticizing?

"And I hope Goodell steps down."

...and the real agenda comes out.

by White Rose Duelist :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 9:27am

It's not unique of sports reporting for the media to not demand proof. Someone being accused of a horrible crime is on page 1, but their exoneration is with the car dealership ads.

by Theo :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 9:40am

Providing proof after you make an extraordinary claim? You got to be kidding me!
What I find interesting if this is a ground on wich he can appeal his suspension.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:18am

If the NFL has no proof whatsoever, why exactly did the Saints organization take all this lying down? Guys have publicly apologized, suspensions weren't even immediately appealed... Do you have any plausible explanation for that if everybody involved is innocent and this was just same crazy, made up charge?

And you talk about the NFL using the tape of Williams as evidence, but they weren't the ones who released that tape and it's quite clear they weren't all that pleased to have it become public. The NFL's best interests from the very beginning would have been served by the Saints actually stopping the bounties the first time and no one ever hearing about the incident. When that didn't happen and the NFL had to act, the best thing for them became getting the thing over and done as quickly as possible, which explains why they weren't screaming from the rooftops "Hey, look at all the proof of one of our teams cheating!" Thanks to the continued efforts of guys like Vilma to avoid any and all responsibility, it's likely that evidence will end up public. I hope you're ready for that because sometimes getting what you ask for can be a pretty harsh thing.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:29am

How pissed must be the Saints be today, knowing that one of their employees just opened them up to discovery?

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:42am

I don't think Vilma thought this through at all. Payton, Vitt, Williams...they'll all be questioned in relation to this. Regardless what the truth actually is, their best interests will be to deflect as much blame from themselves as possible. Vilma may be thinking everybody is going to have his back, but he'll be lucky not to end up being painted as the major driving force behind the bounties. All these other guys have already accepted their punishments, they're not going to have a lot of motivation in helping Vilma avoid his--in fact, they'll see the opportunity to make themselves look better by making Vilma look worse.

by Dean :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:45am

Yeah, but that doesn't fit The Narrative. Big Media wants us to hate The Commissioner. Logic be damned, this MUST somehow be Roger Goodell's fault!

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 11:03am

Uh... where have you seen this? Practically every big journalist I've read loves this guy.

Goodell is a narcissistic bully. I don't need big media to feed me this "narrative" because it's been evident in all of his actions, from his enforcement of the player conduct code to his manner of negotiating the CBA, since becoming the commissioner. He's happy to be judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to handing out uneven suspensions, but now there's a new side where he has to be responsible for those actions. l hope he has to experience some level of humbling from this, because he needs to be reined in.

by Dean :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 11:40am

I'm not going to waste my time running down a list, but I will give you Florio over at PFT as exhibit a. Ultimately, Goodell is an authority-figure and rebellion sells, and nobody knows that better than the media-entertainment-complex.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:16pm

You wouldn't be wasting your time, you'd be making an argument. Florio at PFT hardly counts as the mainstream media. I can point you to Peter King, a well-known journalist who would massage Goodell's feet daily if he could. BTW, they both work for NBC.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:19pm

Since when does a prominent employee of NBC not count as mainstream media? What's the guy gotta be to be mainstream; majority shareholder?

by tuluse :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:26pm

Perhaps the problem here is trying to simplify the "mainstream media" into a single opinion.

90% of ESPN's shows are 2 people arguing, they do have a single opinion that gets broadcast (even if they do obviously favor one).

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:41pm

Maybe I don't pay attention to Florio enough (he's not especially bright), but I thought his relationship to NBC was close to FOs relationship with ESPN. I wouldn't consider FO to be "mainstream" even though they share content with a large entity. I don't think the average football fan would know who Florio is, but they would probably know who Peter King is.
My point about them both working for NBC was in reference to Dean saying that the mainstream media has an agenda against Goodell, and then offered Florio up as an example. If there really was such an agenda, I would expect it to at least be consistent within networks.
I don't think there is agenda for Goodell either, BTW, I just think that many prominent journalists treat Goodell like he's the second coming because they want to maintain their access.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:52pm

The guy appears regularly on the pregame and postgame broadcast that attracts more eyeballs of average football fans than any other. If that isn't mainstream, then "mainstream" has no meaning.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:04pm

Apologies that I don't watch "Football Night in America." I'll be much more careful to read Florio's wikipedia page before I speak of him again. My argument still holds that if the mainstream media did have some axe to grind, King (who is inarguably more well-known than Florio) would be at the forefront.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:20pm

Look, I wasn't rying to pick a fight, but when a guy is called not part of the mainstream, despite appearing on the highest rated sports show on t.v. that isn't an actual game, it does warrant being noted.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:58pm

Yes, I agree. I was incorrect in my assumption that Florio was just a blogger. He's obviously a larger brand now. It's still a minor portion of my discussion with Dean, who didn't offer any other mainstream journalists that have an anti-Goodell agenda. It's something he's brought up a few times in this thread and it's an opinion I find surprising because most journalists I come in contact with find his act endearing.

by WhyArts (not verified) :: Mon, 05/28/2012 - 3:20pm

If Payton, Vitt, Loomis et. al. stand with Vilma, will you see that it's evidence they believe he's right and there was no 'pay-for-injuries' program, as in fact they've all steadfastly maintained? Payton was punished as a 'liar' for saying it. Williams was provided an apology by the NFL to sign, but even that didn't admit to a 'pay-for-injuries' program, only an informal pay-for-big-legal-hits program of dubious legality that is common among the teams. Saints are a scapegoat for player-on-player violence. The owners don't want to pay the medical bills of injured ex-players, that's all. No man should be publicly condemned and deprived of his livelihood without being shown the evidence against him. The Saints will stand for that.

by Autolycus (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:54pm

"The NFL's best interests from the very beginning would have been served by the Saints actually stopping the bounties the first time and no one ever hearing about the incident."

How do you know they didn't stop? Seriously. The only actual incidents the league have ever referred to happened before the two playoff games in 2009-- the $10,000 bounties on Warner and Favre. The only evidence they've presented for bounties after that come from Ornstein's emails.

Those emails appeared really damning initially, based on the league's report, but now it seems that they were sent, not to Payton, but to the Saint's PR guy, who forwarded them to the entire coaching staff. That raises two issues. First, given the relatively public nature of the communication, I think it makes Ornstein's claim that the "bounties" offered for Rodgers and Newton were an inside joke with Gregg Williams, stemming from the 2009 bounty accusations.

Second, it presents a really troubling picture of the way the league has massaged this bounty narrative. Remember, in their report they said: "Coach Payton received an email from a close associate that stated in part, 'PS Greg Williams put me down for $5000 on Rogers (sic).'" So the impression they wanted to create is that Payton was not only aware of the program, he was helping to administrate it and even soliciting contributions from outside parties (convicted criminals, no less). Instead, he received a mass forwarded email from a fellow Saints employee that apparently is largely a rambling description of prison life.

This doesn't prove that Payton is innocent, or that he didn't read it, or anything else. What it does is illustrate why more disclosure is a good thing. The NFL is pushing the storyline that the Saints were Bad Guys, and, while I'm willing to accept that if true, I'd prefer not to just take their word for it.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:21pm

Well, there has been a videotape released, which was shot 4 months ago, which shows Gregg Williams specifically instructing players to hit an opposing player with blows to the head, in clear violation of the rules, in once instance to aggravate an opposing player's preexisting medical condition relating to concussions. In that tape, Williams is shown making a motion with his hand and fingers which is generally accepted to be indicative of someone being paid money for an action.

That's pretty good disclosure.

by Autolycus (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:36pm

The Giants admitted to targeting Kyle Williams based on his concussion history the week after that. How many of them should we suspend?

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:41pm

They didn't admit to doing it for bounties. At least try to keep it apples to apples.

by Autolycus (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:06pm

Does it make a difference to Kyle Williams if the Saints hit him to earn $1000, while the Giants merely did it to go to the Super Bowl? Both situations involve the premeditated desire to inflict or exacerbate injury. Why is one just good football, while the other is sick and evil?

by tuluse :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:21pm

That's a straw man. No one said what the Giants did was good football. No one said was less sick or evil. It's just less illegal.

by nath :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 4:20pm

Gregg Williams didn't say he was going to pay players for opponent ACL injuries on the tape, either. That tape is from January 2012.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:17pm

Hey, you asked the question as to how we know the Saints didn't stop. I just told you how we know. Now, you want to move the goalposts (love using football metaphors on a football site).

Anyways, to embrace your goalpost moving, the Giants hadn't been repeatedly specifically warned to knock it off, and then lied about the existence of such a program. The Giants, to my knowledge, have not been accused of circumventing the salary cap rules. Also, I don't think the Giants stand accused of specifically discussing deliberately hitting Williams in the head after the whistle was blown dead.

by slipknottin :: Sun, 05/20/2012 - 10:55pm

But the giants didn't admit and didn't intend to injure or concuss him. Massive difference

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:52pm

Okay, I'll play. Let's assume the Saints did stop the first time. The NFL's motivation in creating a scandal would be what exactly? Goodell decided one morning he didn't like Benson/Payton/Loomis/Williams and didn't mind trashing the league as a whole to get them? And the Saints decided they'd rather publicly admit to the bounties rather than standing up for themselves and calling Goodell out? You talk about "proving Payton's innocence" like the guy has steadfastly denied any involvement...except he's apologized for the whole thing on multiple occasions. "I take full responsibility" was one of the lines he used. Is he brainwashed? Secretly in collusion with Goodell?

by Autolycus (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:39pm

I'm not asserting that anything proves Payton's innocence, largely because I think that's impossible. He's guilty, and he would deserve punishment even if the Saints had stopped using bounties after 2009, because he's admitted to not paying attention to what the defensive coaches were doing. That lack of institutional control merits punishment. What bothers me about that Ornstein email is that the league went out of their way to make him look even guiltier.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:42pm

Fair enough. I can see what you are saying on that.

Just my $0.02 but the presence of Ornstein as tight as he was with the Saints by itself was a lack of institutional control. If you read the article from Deadspin, Ornstein was in so tight he was hanging out all the time at the team facilities in Saint gear and people were mistaking him for a team employee--this from a guy who was busted for fraud when he worked for the NFL and ended up in the middle of Reggie Bush getting his Heisman taken away. I get that Loomis couldn't tell Payton who his friends could be, but he certainly could have controlled how tight friends/agents were to the club as a whole. It wasn't at all surprising to see Ornstein get mixed up in the bounty scandal because the guy is like a magnet for trouble. He went on to get busted for scalping Super Bowl tickets and forging trading cards. Of all the various facets to the bounty scandal, I have probably hardest time understanding how anybody connected to the Saints could believe it was a good idea having a sleazeball like that around. It looks bad for them because of the whole "friends you keep" angle.

by markus (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 11:43am

"I hope that when it is shown that they lack evidence to suspend Vilma, public opinion will shift and people will demand that Payton, Loomis, Vitt, and Williams are also reinstated."

You realize that these other guys have already admitted to wrongdoing, right? You think that despite there being no evidence they all just happily admitted to something they didn't do?

As a Saints fan I know it'd be nice for you to believe that nothing at all happened and that the black helicopters are behind all this, but if you're going to live in a fantasy world why not just pretend the Saints have won the past 10 straight Super Bowls. It'd be more fun.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:32pm

The only thing Goodell "has" to do is satisfy 24 NFL owners. There is no evidence whatsoever that Goodell is anywhere close to failing to meet that standard.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:46pm

Rational people can disagree on the lengths of the suspensions and how the NFL meted out punishment but how can anyone believe a billionaire owner just rolled over and took it while his team was maliciously defamed? These aren't some poor folks forced to take a plea deal because they can't afford a lawyer. If there was no evidence, none of them would have admitted wrongdoing. Vilma's case is separate so perhaps he can prove he was unfairly singled out, but everybody else has confessed. They're never going to be vindicated because they're not claiming innocence.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 10:04am

"That's the most frustrating thing about all of this. It seems that everyone just took the commissioner's word on all of these allegations instead of saying"

Vilma would know exactly what the evidence is if he hadn't refused to meet with Goodell during the investigation.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 7:52pm

And Bountygate just keeps getting weirder. If you turned this in to Hollywood as a script a year ago they'd have laughed you out of the room for it being so unbelievable.

It's early on, so who knows what else will come out of this, but Vilma's choice of words so far has been interesting. He's not said that he didn't say he'd pay bounties...he's drawing the distinction that he never actually paid them "nor intended" to pay them.

The "nor intended" part is an odd statement. He seems to be leaving the door open to admitting he told guys he'd pay, but that his intent was always to stiff them. Is that really the image he wants to draw of himself? To prove his case you can imagine his own attorneys trying to get his teammates to say that Vilma was untrustworthy and prone to breaking his word.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 8:16pm

Yeah, reading between the lines, he seems to be saying "Yeah, I offered money to have a guy knocked out for the game, but everyone knew I didn't mean it."

Well, he's got a year to kill, so he's beter prepared for litigation than a lot of people, but it's hard enough for famous people to win a defamation suit. To win this one, it seems he'd almost have to prove that Goodell is borderline insane; that Goodell knew what he was saying about Vilma was false, but went ahead and said it anyways, for God know what reason.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 9:33am

The overall theme from the whole Saints organization has been that basically the NFL is out to get them. Because the NFL for some reason would want to create a gigantic cheating scandal out of thin air involving a contending and popular team that had been a huge feel-good story just a couple years back?

If the NFL did badly overplay their hand and there really isn't any evidence, then we'll undoubtedly find out. But it's far more likely that there is evidence and guys like Vilma will end making themselves look far worse by refusing to put closure to the scandal. They always say the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging...well filing lawsuits to assure the scandal stays in he press indefinitely is anything but that.

by Dean :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:03am

Yeah, but it's easier to lash out at The Commissioner than it is to accept responsibility for your actions.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:12pm

That's why Vilma's lawsuit has about much chance as the Vikings winning the Super Bowl next February. In order to prevail, Vilma has to establish that Goodell knew for an absolute fact that there was no evidence whatsoever of Vilma doing anything wrong, and Goodell proceeded anyhow, because Goodell had malicious intent to harm Vilma.

by nat :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 1:40pm

The standard in a case like this is usually "actual malice" or "reckless disregard of the truth". Reckless disregard of the truth might be easier to prove to a judge's satisfaction.

If you can imaging Goodell saying "I don't care if it's true or not, I've got enough to stick it to him in the press, and enough to satisfy the owners!" you can imagine Goodell being found guilty of defamation of character.

Or for instance, if there is an email somewhere saying "the important thing here is to send a strong message, not what each player did or did not do" - you could be on the road to "reckless disregard".

I suspect Goodell was too smart to send such an email. I certainly can imagine him thinking such thoughts.... or thinking other quite different ones.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:26pm

Given that Vilma has yet to actually deny that he offered money to get a guy knocked out of a game, but instead has only denied paying any money, or intending to pay any money, I'd sat the chance of proving that Goodell had reckless disregard for the truth to be about the same as Christian Ponder being the league's next MVP.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:28pm

delete repeat

by Led :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 7:58pm

This is awesome. I hold no brief for Vilma or the other Saints players, but I'm not a fan of unreviewable punishments on secret evidence. Let's let a little sunlight in and see what's up. If there's solid evidence of Vilma putting a hit on Curt Warner and others, I doubt even the most homerific Saints fan would complain about the punishment. If not, then Roger's got some splaining to do.

by Marko :: Thu, 05/17/2012 - 10:18pm

I hope he didn't put a hit on Curt Warner. Not only would that get him in a lot of legal trouble, it would have been useless to the Saints, as Curt Warner retired over 20 years ago.

by Led :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:02am

Doh. I had a feeling I was spelling it wrong, but I was too lazy to check.

by dbirtchnell (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 8:26am

Bingo. If only all other non-Saints fans shared this opinion, rather than believing everything the NFL force feeds them.

And do you really think Vilma would go to such lengths if he had done any of the stuff he's accused of?

I hope this blows up in dictator Goodells face.

by Muggs (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:10am

And do you really think that Goodell would go to such lengths if Vilma hadn't done any of the stuff he is accused off? It seems like a really bad way of getting over this scandal, which is what the NFL must want.

by milo :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:13am

And you think that powerful people don't make mistakes and refuse to own up to them?

(That's 16 words)

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 12:15pm

Vilma's burden of proof is much higher than showing Goodell made a mistake. This lawsuit has about as much chance of success as the chance that Brady divorces Giselle, so he can shack up with Rosie O'Donnell.

by dbirtchnell (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:53pm

Well when he's got 1,500 and counting ex-players looking to sue the league for injuries they suffered while playing, then yeah.

Look at how the Hargrove "confession" was twisted to sound far worse than what he actually said. You really think the dictator is being 100% honest in this? Like I said in my previous message, pretty much everyone is taking what the NFL has said on this as gospel, without having all of the facts. Personally I like to have all of the facts before making a decision, rather than be told what to think.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:40pm

You've got a defensive coordinator on videotape intstructing players to take head shots that are outside the rules, in an effort to aggravate an opposing player's concussion history. You've got the same assistant on the tape making the universal gesture for payment for illicit activity. Do you think Roger Goodell concocted this with the help of Hollywood special effect software and fast computers?

by dbirtchnell (not verified) :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 5:49am

So how many head shots or illegal hits did Saints defenders make in that game? None.

You probably don't know, but the Saints committed zero penalties in that Niners game. None. So yeah, they really went out and went after Williams head, Crabtree's knee etc.

But how about the team that publicly said after playing the Niners that they DID target Williams history of concussions and succeeded in knocking him out of the game? Why no penalties or suspensions for them?

So are you saying that talking about intentionally knocking a player out of the game is worse than actually doing it?

I'm not denying what Gregg Williams said in that speech, but isn't it possible that it was only meant as a motivational ploy to fire the defense up? I didn't realise that was illegal too.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 9:26am

Uh, yes, to specifically instruct players to break the rules, in an effort to aggravate an opponent's concussion condition, and to make an offer of money outside the salary cap for doing so, is very much a serious violation, even if nobody takes him up on it, or is unsuccessful in doing so. It is puzzling that this needs to be explained, and, yes, I was aware that they were not penalized. I'm also aware that the Giants, unlike the Saints, have not been specifically warned to knock it off for a couple years, and persisted in the behavior anyways.

Just so you are clear, if you tell someone to burn down a building you own, and you will will give that person a cut of the insurance settlement, you are guilty of a violation, even if that person doesn't burn the building down, intentionally or not. Be careful out there!

by milo :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 10:42am

So you have a problem with what Gregg Williams said. And you think that Jonathan Vilma is responsible for the words and actions of his boss. That's a weird system of justice.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 12:55pm

Uh, no. I think Gregg Williams' videotape from four months ago is a strong piece of evidence, in conjunction with evidence going back several years now, that there has been a consistent practice within the Saints' organization for years to encourage head shots and other hits, that the rules of the NFL do not allow, in an effort to get opposing players off the field, and that players have been offered cash for doing so. This body of evidence leads me to believe that the story of Vilma saying that he would pay 10k to anyone who knocked Favre out of the NFCCG is very likely true. The fact that Vilma has yet to deny saying those words, but instead has legalistically stated that he never paid any money, and never intended to, leads me to strongly believe (like about 95% sure) that Vilma did say those words.

I don't think it is extremely unlikely that Vilma is being truthful when he says he never intended to pay any money, and that his teammates understood this (although the "Pay me my money!" shout by the Saints player who did manage to get Favre carried off the field is evidence to the contrary), but that's the problem with the management of an organization being dishonest, on several occasions, with the office which heads up the cartel which the organization (and the labor union) is very, very, happy to be part of; that office is likely to be extremely skeptical of any exonerating or mitigating claims by anyone within the organization, and this isn't a criminal prosecution, where the standard or proof is beyond reasonable doubt.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:23am

"And do you really think Vilma would go to such lengths if he had done any of the stuff he's accused of?"

Why wouldn't he? As of now, he stands to lose a lot of money, and he has a lot of time on his hands. Even a remote chance of victory is better than the status quo.

by tuluse :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:32am

I was going to say this. He has nothing to lose.

He's been suspended for a year, which at his age could very well be the same as a forced retirement. His reputation and legacy are in tatters. Why wouldn't he fight tooth and nail even if guilty?

by Ewout (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:50am

I don't think you should try to conclude too much from what Vilma does or doesn't do. Football players are not generally known for their intellect, so I consider rational behavior on Vilma's part a bonus, not a given.

More interesting in my view is what the NFL owners (through Goodell) will do. On the one hand they can't be happy with players taking them (or Goodell in this case) to court. On the other hand I imagine it would help them in the concussion litigation if they can turn somebody like Vilma into the next Barry Bonds.
My guess is that they'll focus on just winning this case no matter what, and that they won't care too much about public opinion.

by Three Yards & A Cloud of Angel Dust (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 11:29am

This is a great move by Vilma, especially considering how well it worked for Oscar Wilde and Alger Hiss.

by wr (not verified) :: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 11:55am

Maybe the whole purpose of this is to force the NFL to cough up its evidence into the public record (via subpeona),
with winning/losing the suit being immaterial. This would
by a most fortuitous coincidence get said evidence into the NFLPA's grubbly little paws...

by TomKelso :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 1:20pm

The NFL discipline process has been ripe for a lawsuit for years --

You have one system for players involving public suspension and humiliation, and another for owners and staff that is kept totally private and out of the public record.

You have an "appeal" process that consists of going to the person who signed off on your punishment, and having to convince him, after your initial attempt failed, to reduce or eliminate the penalty her already determined you should receive. This penalty will deprive you of your property, as you will not be allowed to perform the services for the compensation as outlined in your contract. You are also not allowed to market your services elsewhere, as that portion of your contract remains in effect.

Goodell has no credibility -- "I'm REALLY concerned about player safety, but we will continue to bring up extending the schedule by two additional games." But what he does have is a sports media apparatus that isn't that interested in reporting, but rather in commentating -- and keeping its share of NFL money and ratings on their networks. Want to neuter having CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN/ABC poking around in your business too much? Make sure they all get a slice of your pie.

And if they worry about their reputation? (snicker) "Let Dan Florio on your highlights show -- people need to go to the bathroom before the game anyway!" "We've got no problems with 'Outside the Lines' -- but would you like another hour of pre-game show? Geez, I guess Jeremy Schaap gets the Deuce -- would you like another prime-time night of draft coverage?"

Pete Gent and Dan Jenkins only WISH they were as imaginative at how the NFL works as it has actually turned out.

Oh, and does anyone really believe that the Giants had to be told trying to injure a player on purpose was against the rules? If they really were ignorant of that at this stage in their careers, football has problems worse than John Underwood pointed out in SI years ago. "The Giants weren't told to cut it out" is as phony an argument as "Goodell is trying to clean up the game".

by Will Allen :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 2:06pm

First, when a labor union has specifically negotiated the manner in which a discipline process will work, it would be extraordinary for a court to step in. Yes, some Saints and Vikings had some temporary success, but that was mostly due to the old CBA being put together in a hurry, and thus not having language which would deal with the vagaries of state labor laws. Anybody who doesn't like this process needs to take it up with the NFLPA.

Second, it is simply inaccurate to imply that the player with the steepest penalty, Vilma, has been subject to more public humiliation than the member of management who has received the steepest penalty, Gregg Williams.

Third, I think you misunderstand the point about the Giants being different than the Saints. No one (or at least I didn't) claimed that the Giants had to be told what was against the rules. The point is that the league office had received information that the Saints were violating rules, inquired with the Saints, whereupon the Saints lied to the league office, and continued with the practice. Dissembling when asked about a misdeed is yet another violation, and a very serious one, that the Giants did not engage in.

Fourth, if there is the belief that Roger Goodell needs to have credibility with someone other than 24 NFL owners, that belief is inaccurate.

by TomKelso :: Sat, 05/19/2012 - 5:55pm

First, no collective of any sort has the right to bargain away due process. This was established back in the Ali case in the early 1970's. Vilma is taking it up with the right people -- not the NFLPA, but through the adversarial process of the courts, since his ability to receive a fair hearing from the same person who imposed the penalty on him is suspect at best. The NFLPA is not a position to provide any relief for its member in this case, and may indeed be looking for leverage of its own in future negotiations as a result of this action.

Second, I didn't mention coaches or management -- specifically because Williams, Loomis and Payton may indeed seek their own relief. I said "owners and staff" -- the Irsay case being the most prominent example, but the whole point is that there are two sets of rules, with punishments applied arbitrarily. Think of it this way -- if the NFL had (or has) done anything to Benson, it is their official policy to keep it in house, and out of the public eye. No Park Avenue perp walks for the folks with the ultimate responsibility.

Third, I'd like to offer the following quote, posted this morning:

"I'm also aware that the Giants, unlike the Saints, have not been specifically warned to knock it off for a couple years, and persisted in the behavior anyways."

It is not necessary to warn a team to "knock it off" when it comes to attempting to purposely injure opponents. What the Giants DID is at least as reprehensible as what the Saints were exhorted to do -- and spectacularly failed to do, if the game record is to be believed. Whether money was involved in the Giants case is beside the point -- especially if you buy the pious line from NFL headquarters that this is all about player safety.

Which brings us to fourth, credibility. If 24 owners decide that Goodell's lack of it is more harm to them than it's worth, he's gone. That last point of yours is a little overwhelming in its cynicism, actually. If my lawyer argues in court that my credibility didn't matter, he'd be in trouble with me, the court and the Bar Association for gross incompetence. If this case gets to trial, we're going to be hearing a lot about how scrupulous and credible Roger Goodell is -- certainly not that it is unimportant as long as 3/4 of the owners want to keep him in his office.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 12:18am

The trial is going to have far less to do with Goodell than with Vilma. The burden of proof will be on him, not Goodell. If there's absolutely no evidence against Vilma and he can show Goodell knew that but was still out to get him, he'll win. But, given Payton, Loomis, Vitt, and Williams have all admitted guilt--and billionaire owner Benson didn't file his own defamation suit to protect the value and image of his franchise--it seems unlikely that zero evidence exists against Vilma. In fact, Vilma's own words regarding the lawsuit suggest he may admit to saying he'd pay bounties...but that he never actually intended to do so. That spells huge trouble for him given the lawsuit is about slander, which will require him to prove Goodell maliciously lied to harm him. That's a high burden of proof and there's no way he reaches it by admitting he was involved in the bounties in any way.

And your contention that collectives can't bargain away due process is completely wrong. Why do you think high school kids aren't free to enter the NFL? There have been lawsuits over that and the plantiffs lost specifically because the NFLPA not only was deemed to have the right to bargain away their own members' due process, but also those of players not even a part of the union.

by Jerry :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 4:46am

Vilma may feel that a trial is the only way to clear, at least to an extent, his name. Even if he doesn't actually win a judgment, if he can convince people (in what I'm sure will be a very public proceeding) that he wasn't a large part of the bounty program, it will make him more attractive in what would be left of his football career and in his post-football life.

by Will Allen :: Sun, 05/20/2012 - 10:33am

First if you woukld like to lay odds on Vilma's chance of successfully litigating an escape from the discipline process his own union negotiated for, name your terms, to the charity of our choice.

Second, if it it your position that a coach and a GM are not part of an owner's "staff", well, golly, you just go ahead and take that position.

Third, I plead guilty for not initially noting that the Saints were not only warned, but also lied about it. The point stands.

Fourth, I wasn't arguing in court. I was responding to the implication that the general public's opinion of Roger Goodell's credibility has much relevance. It doesn't. Why you think it is cynical to note that the head of a cartel, whose rules require 75% support for him, needs only to have that 75% view him as credible, is puzzling.

I make no argument for the state of mind of anyone involved here, and their motivations, because I don't know any of these people personally. I always find the spectacle of extremely well-paid people, ostensibly with at least average IQs, behaving with incredible stupidity, to be highly entertaining. The Saints organization has been chock-full with such types throughout this matter.

by TomKelso :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 8:02am

First, I would also denigrate rather than engage the topic of just how a union could bargain away a constitutional prerogative, if I were in your shoes. And when you write out that check, remember that litigation isn't limited to actual trial. If Vilma's suspension is stayed, reduced or eliminated, that is due to his litigation. Just so you know to have your checkbook ready.

Second, it is almost willfully obtuse of you to read my first statement, THEN the second, and still think I'm talking about coaches or GM's when I talk about league staff. Also noting that you still don't address the very real existence of two sets of rules, imposed at Goodell's whim.

Third, my point has nothing to do with what the Saints did or did not do; only with what the Giants did and admitted doing, which is so blatantly against the rules that warnings and whether another team lied about something has no effect on the Giants' actions. To continue to bring up "well, the Saints were told to knock it off, and lied" is totally immaterial to what the Giants did. And yet no Giant, not even the one who bragged about it to the New York media, has been suspended for deliberately trying to injure another player. Point carries.

Fourth, that 75% of the cartel couldn't care less if Goodell has any credibility. But if he's perceived as harming the league's reputation and profitability, he'll be gone. If you don't realize that, then you're not cynical, just hopelessly naive.

And your net is far too small when it comes to casting for well-paid, highly-educated idiots, if it's only focused on the Saints. The fishing is great up on Park Avenue, particularly in the NFL offices.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 10:10am

Look, I already stated that if you want to say that the set known "owners and staff" doesn't include coaches and GMs, well, golly, you just go right ahead and say that. If you want to now be an ass about it and toss some invective my way, golly, you just go ahead ahead and do that too.

Also, if you want to say that it is immaterial for a party to lie about the party's misdeeds, when comparing two parties who have engaged in misdeeds, you just go right ahead and do that, too.

Furthermore, the credibility I was referring to was Goodell's credibility with 75% of the ownership group. That's the only credibility that matters. But I appreciate your willingness to toss some more invective my way. If you want to explain why it is cynical to note that the only thing that matters with regard to Goodell's job performance is how his employers view his performance, go right ahead.

Yes, if you want to set the bar so low that a temporary stay in a suspension can mean that Vilma has successfully litigated himself out of the disciplinary procedures his union negotiated for, then you might prevail on my proposed wager. If you want to set it at "Vilma won't serve a suspension, because Roger Goodell has deprived him of his Constitutional rights", then you won't.

by TomKelso :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 10:44pm

Actually, you hadn't; instead you chose to read a meaning I hadn't intended and then ignore my clarification. Interesting that when I reply to you using your structure and tone, I'm suddenly an "ass" hurling invective. Golly gee, Mr. Allen, I sure am lucky to have you to condescend to me and explain all this stuff.

You can try all you want to mitigate the Giants by saying the Saints were worse, but it doesn't matter. If the prime concern is player safety, what the Giants did -- go out with the intention to injure members of the 49ers, specifically Kyle Williams, is just as bad as the Saints' bounties. We don't know if money was involved with the Giants, or if it has even been investigated. We do know that the people who admitted to it have felt no repercussions, not even one of those charming invitations to stroll past the cameras for a chat with Goodell. You can go right on ahead and ignore who did the damage and to whom, but Kyle Williams can't. And the NFL shouldn't, if it means what it says.

Not that I believe it does. There is far more to suggest that the concern about player safety is more of a public relations stance than an actual coherent, concrete program. Credibility only matters as long as they believe Goodell can fake it; once that tips, he's gone. IF you can find where I said anything other than he serves only as long as they want him, please point it out. Hint: it's not under the "invective".

Seriously, that reminds me of nothing so much as one of those radio blowhards getting their own medicine for once, and then complaining that they're being picked on. If saying something or someone is obtuse now qualifies as uncivilized, better stay in Minnesota. They can be mean in Iowa, I hear.

As far as outcomes, I suspect that what will happen is that Vilma will eventually get his lost salary returned after the court process drags on long enough that he will wind up serving his suspension. Of course, he may get a "temporary" stay -- is the Williams Wall stay still in effect? -- which will be lifted when the parties arrive at a negotiated settlement. That will be a result of the litigation, by the way. It may not be at one of the extremes, but I assume you will acknowledge that it will be a major alteration of the disciplinary process.

Given the way you've reacted to me pointing out your fallacies, you might not, I suppose, but at least it's on the record, where it can be pointed out you've ignored it, like you'have most of the things I've said so far.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/22/2012 - 3:13pm

Yes, you are an ass for writing that soemone is imtentionally obtuse, hopelessly naive, and cynical, instead of simply writing that you disagreed with that person.

I'm sorry to have quoted you, and to have told you that if you wanted to have those words assigned a certain meaning, you could go ahead and do so.

Apparently, you did not read or chose to ignore what I wrote in regards to the various motivations that people have in this matter; that I had no opinions on their motivation. Otherwise, you woundn't have wasted the time to inform me of your opinions on what the NFL should or shouldn't do, if it means what it says. To have you accuse another of naivete is little ironic, if you actually think there is a chance in hell that people consistently mean what they say in public, when involved in a matter of impeding litigation on multiple fronts. In case you don't know it yet, here's a clue: No player, no owner, no commissioner, and certainly no lawyer involved is being forthright. None of them. Got it? They do not mean what they say. That's not cynicism, it's just a statement of fact.

Finally, if you want to be able to say you were right, and I was wrong, if in the end, the league and the player decide to end the legal battle with the player only giving up 8 or 10 or 12 or 14 games worth of salary, intead of 16, golly, I'll say it now. You are right, and I am wrong. In fact, I'll stipulate that if, in the end, Jonathon Vilma gets a free tickets to the Rockettes' Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall on the NFL's dime, you were extremely right, and I was extremely wrong. Oops, now I'm a talk radio host again, or some other hideous, naive, cynical, willfully obtuse, being once again, which you will no doubt inform me of. Orc, perhaps? Boogeyman? Do tell!!

by TomKelso :: Tue, 05/22/2012 - 11:23pm

*Hands Will A. a brown paper bag* -- breathe deep; hyperventilation is a serious medical situation, and further communication is useless in this state.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 2:19am

Golly, I'm a hyperventilating willfully obtuse, cynical, naive, person akin to a tallk radio host. I contain multitudes!

by TomKelso :: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 1:13am

I'd be more inclined to think in this instance you are legion, and I normally agree with you!

by morganja :: Sun, 05/20/2012 - 3:57pm

It seems as if there are two issues here.

The first is the format of player justice by the league. The owners could, and should, set up a system with checks and balances. Even weak ones would be much better than what they have now. A player representative on a three person appeal panel would do wonders for mollifying some of the worst aspects of the current system. At the very least, a player representative would have access to the evidence.

The second issue is specifically Vilma. If he is innocent than he needs to present some sort of credible explanation of what was going on. As it is, it appears to be the 'BS defense' which offends most people. The BS defense is to simply deny everything no matter how guilty you are and wait for your high school coach, university administrators, enablers to work behind the scenes and get you off scott free.

After a lifetime of this treatment, I don't think Vilma understands that it won't work this time because the interests of his enablers aren't aligned with his personal interests. It's probably a first time for him, hence the confusion.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 05/21/2012 - 7:40am

Is Vilma also planning to retire? If he really believes that Goodell already had some unjustified malice against him, then surely he must realize he'll be blackballed for this. Maybe he figures he'll be blackballed over the bounty stuff anyway, so he might as well go out swinging. It's a shame too, because he probably had a few good years left.