Like so many other developments in the Saints’ bounty drama, the latest one has arrived out of the blue, without warning.
During last Friday’s PFT Live, lawyer Peter Ginsberg vaguely hinted at additional legal action that he may be taking on behalf of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. But there was no indication that Vilma would file a lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
That’s precisely what Vilma has done. It’s Vilma v. Goodell, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the federal court that encompasses New Orleans.
As specified in paragraph 1 on the complaint, the claim is defamation, which means that Vilma contends Goodell lied about Vilma when making public statements about Vilma’s role in the alleged bounty program.
What follows over the next 112 numbered paragraphs are a variety of specific allegations that, in short, claim the Commissioner has been untruthful about Vilma’s involvement in the bounty program, and that Vilma never “pledged” and “never paid, or intended to pay” $10,000 or any amount of money as an incentive to knock Brett Favre or Kurt Warner out of 2009 playoff games, or any other player in any other game.
Curiously, Vilma never says that he never “offered” to pay $10,000 as an incentive to knock Brett Favre or Kurt Warner or anyone else out of any games. The use of the phrase “never paid, or intended to pay” copies the content of Vilma’s May 2 statement, which seemed to dance around the possibility that Vilma, perhaps in the heat of the moment, made a hollow offer to pay the money as part of an exercise in standard pregame hyperbole.
Above all else, the lawsuit appears to be a mechanism for forcing the NFL to put the evidence against Vilma on the table. Since truth is an absolute defense to any defamation claim, Goodell can vindicate himself by offering up proof to support the statements he has made.