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Vilma, league office at odds over whether evidence has been disclosed

Jonathan Vilma Portrait Shoot Getty Images

The battle between Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Commissioner Roger Goodell has expanded to a new front, with the two sides sharply disagreeing as to whether the NFL has given Vilma evidence to support the accusations that he funded a bounty system in New Orleans.

On Thursday, Vilma explained to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that Vilma declined a chance to meet with the Commissioner before discipline was imposed because the league office refused to share evidence of guilt with Vilma.  In response, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that evidence was indeed provided.

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

Vilma’s lawyer disagrees.  “Mr. Aiello clearly has not been allowed to participate in the process,” Peter Ginsberg tells PFT via email.  “We were invited in but explicitly told that the Commissioner had no obligation to allow us to view the supposed ‘evidence’ and that the Commissioner would not be showing us the ‘evidence.’  And, in fact, the Commissioner has not provided us with any evidence.”

There’s not much middle ground between those two positions.

From Vilma’s perspective, as explained during Friday’s PFT Live, he’s undoubtedly reluctant to submit to a process in which the folks with whom he’s meeting already have made up their minds, and in turn are simply looking to carve out from the face-to-face session evidence of guilt, ignoring any evidence of innocence.  If Vilma doesn’t know what the evidence against him is, Vilma doesn’t know anything about what others have said about him, and in turn he has no opportunity to properly respond.

More importantly, any misstatement or misunderstanding from Vilma can fuel a determination that Vilma’s version conflicts with some other player’s or coach’s statement.  If the NFL chooses to believe the person whose version contradicts Vilma’s, the NFL can then conclude that Vilma is lying — and thus guilty.

That’s why Vilma and the other suspended players are trying to steer the appeals process away from Goodell.  Ultimately, they want someone with a truly open mind to hear all the evidence and make a decision based not on P.R. or litigation management but simply on the question of whether these men funded or otherwise participated in a system that paid money to players who inflicted injury on their opponents.

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32 Responses to “Vilma, league office at odds over whether evidence has been disclosed”
  1. akhhorus says: Jun 1, 2012 1:19 PM

    Wouldn’t going to Burbank with a grievance count as going to “someone with a truly open mind to hear all the evidence and make a decision based not on P.R. or litigation management but simply on the question of whether these men funded or otherwise participated in a system that paid money to players who inflicted injury on their opponents”?

  2. goodellgate says: Jun 1, 2012 1:20 PM

    Simple anticipation : no Payton and Williams didn’t admit anything.

  3. CKL says: Jun 1, 2012 1:23 PM

    As far as the appeals process alone, Vilma should be sung all his fellow players, including NFL player reps, as well as De Smith because it’s all their faults collectively that Goodell was left as the sole decision maker. He’s like a kid who gets a bad grade because he blew off a class now wants the teacher not to be allowed to flunk him.

  4. CKL says: Jun 1, 2012 1:24 PM

    *suing*

  5. jason1980 says: Jun 1, 2012 1:29 PM

    Oh my Mr Goddell, you have got yourself in between a rock and a hard place. Let see how the NFL wrangles themselves out of this mess. P.R. and litigation management maybe Goddell’s downfall.

  6. eagleswin says: Jun 1, 2012 1:33 PM

    That’s why Vilma and the other suspended players are trying to steer the appeals process away from Goodell. Ultimately, they want someone with a truly open mind to hear all the evidence and make a decision based not on P.R. or litigation management but simply on the question of whether these men funded or otherwise participated in a system that paid money to players who inflicted injury on their opponents.

    ————————————–

    I don’t think that’s it. They want someone they can manipulate (intimidate or cajole). Even if that doesn’t work out it gives them the opportunity to get the evidence they need to leak whichever documents support their side of the story to the major sports networks.

    Let me ask a question. When has the NFLPA ever abided by a decision made by a special master that went against them?

    Judge Doty knows the answer to that question.

    The players aren’t interested in justice. They are only interested in Get out of Jail Free cards.

  7. genericuser8888 says: Jun 1, 2012 1:37 PM

    The union said they were shown a powerpoint presentation. They were never shown any actual evidence. They were not even allowed to have a copy of the powerpoint.

    The Saints coaches never admitted a bounty program and the NFL has barred them from talking about the issue in the media. Greg Williams apology was written by the NFL.

    I’m sure they had a pay for performance scheme or something like that, but Goodell has smeared this into something it was not.

    Let’s hope Vilma’s lawsuit brings sheds some light onto the facts of the “bounty” program.

  8. jason1980 says: Jun 1, 2012 1:44 PM

    Eagleswin, stop ya whining, you remind me of my ex-girlfriend, wah, wah, wah……the powerhouse Saints will reign again this year. How do you say “Superbowl”, hater?? New Orleans Saints, that’s how!!

  9. sgtr0c says: Jun 1, 2012 1:50 PM

    Vilma doesn’t want someone with an open mind, just someone who agrees with his side. Just like your point that the NFL has already made him guilty, he is just looking for someone to make him innovent. His lawyer that he has hired to claim there is no evidence, when all the other accussed already plead guilty, really just smacks of his guilt and he is just trying to lessen the sentence. A truly innocent person would only claim, it wasn’t me, not hire a lawyer and try to change the judge.

  10. letmesetyoustraight says: Jun 1, 2012 1:52 PM

    If all Goodell has on Vilma is testimony from disgruntled ex-defensive assistant Frank Cerullo, then he has next to nothing.

  11. juliusanonymous says: Jun 1, 2012 1:58 PM

    Why would the NFL show him any evidence? Louisiana is an “employment at-will” state, meaning the NFL/Saints can discipline Vilma for any reason they want as long as it does not violate federal law (discrimination, retaliation, etc). They don’t have to show Vilma anything, and they won’t.

    The only case any player can make right now would be defamation, and that would only apply to specific NFL employees making specific claims that caused “harm” to the player(s). It’s so predictable and humorous that Vilma’s legal team is demanding “evidence” from Goodell, while suing him for defamation. As if any but the most boneheaded moron would show them any “evidence” at this point.

    The burden of proof in a defamation case is on the plaintiff. Vilma has to prove that Goodell made false statements about Vilma with the intent to harm him. Goodell can just kick back at this point, keep his mouth shut, and watch Vilma’s attorneys flail away and waste a bunch of Vilma’s cash. They have virtually no chance in court. It is extremely difficult to prove a defamation claim.

  12. dublindemonszfl says: Jun 1, 2012 1:58 PM

    Vilma maybe a little smarter than his lawyer, but probably not as smart as 5th grader.

  13. booker1974 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:02 PM

    eagleswin, you have it backwards. Goodell is the one that’s not out for justice; he’s out to flex his muscles and assert his authority.

  14. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:04 PM

    sgtr0c says:

    “when all the other accussed already plead guilty, really just smacks of his guilt and he is just trying to lessen the sentence. A truly innocent person would only claim, it wasn’t me, not hire a lawyer and try to change the judge.”

    —————————————————————

    Really!??! Who has plead guilty? NO ONE! yes, because the best course of action when you are accused of a crime in court is to not get a lawyer and just say ” I am innocent”. that is the most ridiculous statement i have ever read.

  15. kattykathy says: Jun 1, 2012 2:06 PM

    I have a question for all the half brained nimwits that keep saying Goodell has the power, he doesn’t have to share anything. Accept your punishment cause your guilty he says.

    If you have no union at your place of employment then your employer can fire you at will for whatever reason without a challenge. Lets say your employer was facing heat from their insurance companies for possible litigation due to the companies practice of slippery floors in the wash down areas of the fatory floor that washes away grime, and said they need to find a way to show they do everything in their power to prevent slippery floors in an area that is impossible to keep from being slippery.

    One day you come to work and your employer says they have evidence of you making extra grime and grease and pouring all over the floor , then flooding the work area. They accuse you, call you a sabotuer, and a hostile employee.

    You ask them, beg them to show you the proof and deny wrongdoing to no avail. They say they dont have to show you anything, pack your crap and get out.

    Now I know you would just accept and leave right?
    You wouldn’t dare consult an attorney, correct?

  16. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:06 PM

    furthermore, the problem is the same person is Judge, Jury , and executioner. there is a reason why our judicial system is set not to allow that to happen. wouldn’t you try and change the judge?

  17. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:15 PM

    juliusanonymous says:
    Jun 1, 2012 1:58 PM
    Why would the NFL show him any evidence? Louisiana is an “employment at-will” state, meaning the NFL/Saints can discipline Vilma for any reason they want as long as it does not violate federal law (discrimination, retaliation, etc). They don’t have to show Vilma anything, and they won’t.

    ——————————————————–

    “Louisiana is an “employment-at-will” state. Unless an employee has a contract of employment for a specific length of time or is subject to a collective bargaining agreement as a union member, the employee may be discharged from employment at the will of the employer. That is, the employee may be fired for any reason or for no reason at all. ”

    basically employment-at-will unless there is a contract, which there is. Players contracts actually state they have the right to appeal and see evidence against them.

  18. wetpaperbag3 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:18 PM

    CKL says: Jun 1, 2012 1:23 PM

    As far as the appeals process alone, Vilma should be sung all his fellow players, including NFL player reps, as well as De Smith because it’s all their faults collectively that Goodell was left as the sole decision maker. He’s like a kid who gets a bad grade because he blew off a class now wants the teacher not to be allowed to flunk him.
    ————————————————–

    For the record, the players, player reps, nor De Smith has NO input as to WHO the commissioner will be nor do that dictate WHAT his duties are. The only ones who choose/vote for a commissioner are the team owners and most certainly are the ones who define the role of the commissioner.

    The commissioner will only do what he is told to do by the owners and thus will never yield arbitration/appeals control. The only way it will change is if the NFLPA and the power of the media shames the owners into allowing a third party arbitrator to hear all appeals.

  19. sb44champs says: Jun 1, 2012 2:19 PM

    Eagleswin, stop ya whining, you remind me of my ex-girlfriend, wah, wah, wah……the powerhouse Saints will reign again this year. How do you say “Superbowl”, hater?? New Orleans Saints, that’s how!!
    —————————————-
    You nailed it on the head Jason Voorhees!!!

  20. stangz11 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:20 PM

    I don’t care anymore. Quit talking and settle it in court. Remember Vilma, you are the one suing, so you had better have some proof that a) your character and image were damaged and b) you had nothing to do with this whole bounty case. For some reason I think he is going to have a hard time with both of those counts…

  21. sb44champs says: Jun 1, 2012 2:24 PM

    A truly innocent person would only claim, it wasn’t me, not hire a lawyer and try to change the judge.
    ——————————————-
    Are you really that dumb??

  22. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:27 PM

    stangz11 says:
    Jun 1, 2012 2:20 PM
    I don’t care anymore. Quit talking and settle it in court. Remember Vilma, you are the one suing, so you had better have some proof that a) your character and image were damaged and b) you had nothing to do with this whole bounty case. For some reason I think he is going to have a hard time with both of those counts…

    ——————————————————————

    a) what are you talking about? his image and character have been irreparably damaged! as evidence by the majority of posters.

    b) well that is what he is after. His lawyer would be a fool to go after this if vilma admitted he did this.

  23. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:29 PM

    why does do the saints haters keep saying that Vilma has the burden of proof on him, while at the same time won’t agree that the Burden of proof should be on Goodell to prove the accusations. kind of a double standard if you ask me.

  24. qdog112 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:34 PM

    A basic tenet of American due process is that you are allowed to see your accuser and all evidence used to make a determination. Wilma has no reason to lie about having seen the evidence and in fact, if he were given the evidence, he would have had to sign a statement indicating exactly what documents he was given. That’s easy to prove or disprove. Hence, it’s easy for me to discern that Goodell is lying. Wilma should press on and demand copies of everything they have. He wins this one in court.

  25. 4thqtrsaint says: Jun 1, 2012 2:34 PM

    Sgtroc… Hate to break news you should have read already, but everybody has not plead guilty. There’s been no court to plea anything in.

    If you meant everybody else has admitted guilt, again, you’d be wrong. People like you post on here and I think you read headlines instead of whole articles. Then you post like you know what you’re talking about. Sean Payton, Vilma, Will Smith & Fujita haven’t admitted or plead guilty or not guilty to anything.

    Greg Williams signed an apology crafted by the NFL that states nothing about a bounty program. He did it because he wants to coach again.

    Anthony Hargrove signed an apology crafted by the NFL that states nothing about a bounty program. Hargrove was suspended for a year prior to joining the Saints. He did this because he knew he could lose another year of work or even longer.

    Both men are scared of losing their jobs. My argument here is not that they are guilty or innocent, but that nobody has admitted to anything. I for one am tired of correcting the people who have selected reading disorder. If you hate the Saints just say so. Saints fans don’t care. In fact, we think its funny. But for the love of truth, stop spouting off like a know it all, when obviously you haven’t done your homework.

    Saints fans don’t want the Saints getting out of jail free or what have you. We want the truth. If our guys did this, you’ll know how disappointed we are. If our team warrants punishment, then so be it. But for now, we don’t know. And if you ask me, the evidence for a bounty program just isn’t there.

  26. Steeley McBeam says: Jun 1, 2012 2:35 PM

    Im sure they disclosed all the evidence along with their decision notification to Vilma… oh wait, he found out on ESPN that he was suspended?

    How does the NFL explain that one?

  27. robf2010 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:36 PM

    “Why would the NFL show him any evidence? Louisiana is an “employment at-will” state, meaning the NFL/Saints can discipline Vilma for any reason they want as long as it does not violate federal law (discrimination, retaliation, etc).”

    I think the NFL and Saints have to provide cause if they’re not going to honor their contract with Vilma. This isn’t an “at-will” issue. There are contracts involved.

  28. anarchopurplism says: Jun 1, 2012 2:45 PM

    Enemy….let me examine your ammo, don’t just show me your arsenal!

    The CBA has a process for discipline and showing or giving “evidence” is NOT a part of the disciplinary process Vilma agreed to thru his union. Don’t like the process? Talk to DeDouche Smith.

    New words for 2013 Dictionary:
    Vilma: the process of building a basement in the doghouse you are already in.

  29. cwwgk says: Jun 1, 2012 2:45 PM

    Vilma’s lawyer is no stranger to splitting hairs in an effort to cast not only adversaries, but even judges, in a negative light. Just check out the Court opinion from Florida suspending him for five years and fining Vilma’s lawyer more than $370,000 dollars. Perhaps your view of his claim that no evidence has been shared, or offered to be shared, will be different.

  30. thingamajig says: Jun 1, 2012 2:47 PM

    Maybe next time NFLPA and the players will read the CBA prior to voting on it.

  31. daveman8403 says: Jun 1, 2012 3:12 PM

    thingamajig says:
    Jun 1, 2012 2:47 PM
    Maybe next time NFLPA and the players will read the CBA prior to voting on it.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    I guess that makes it just. the NFLPA may have put themselves in this position of not having any power, but that doesn’t make it right. That is one reason Vilma is taking it to civil court.

  32. juliusanonymous says: Jun 1, 2012 4:49 PM

    As a practicing attorney of 20+ years, who cut their teeth on employment law (representing employers), I’m a little familiar with how “employment at-will” works. And some of these commenters couldn’t be any further off the mark. It’s hilarious reading these comments claiming the players should sue the NFL.

    The only thing a CBA/Union does for an employee is to make “legally enforceable” any protections clearly spelled out in their employment contract. ALL NFL contracts contain a clause that players can be disciplined at any time with cause, with the sole appeal being an arbitration hearing with the employer (NFL). So the only thing a court is going to look at is if you got your arbitration hearing. Nowhere in the players’ contracts does it say the NFL is required to provide proof. Florio knows this, which is why it’s incredible that he’s still writing about these players going to court. It’s laughable. They have nothing to stand on, unless they claim they were the victims of discrimination, retaliation, or some other reason prohibited by state and/or federal law. That is why Vilma’s attorneys filed an “extremely unlikely” defamation claim versus an “impossible” employment claim.

    Second, if you show up to a hearing in an at-will state talking about WHY you were disciplined or that your employer can’t prove it, the judge is not going to give one single flying hoot. It is totally irrelevant. Either the employer fired/disciplined you in a way that violates your union contract or federal/state law, or they didn’t. And that is literally the ONLY issue the courts will hear – did Vilma’s discipline violate some state or federal law, or the terms lined out in the CBA? If that’s not the claim, the case won’t even be heard by a court.

    And to the commentor who mentions the right to face one’s accuser and see all evidence against you, that is ONLY valid in a criminal court. In civil law, the burden of proof is always on the plaintiff, and the defendant isn’t required to provide evidence of anything (as you seem to suggest by saying Goodell/NFL would be required to show their evidence against Vilma). In fact, if they have a good attorney, the defendant will generally sit there and not say a word. And 99.9% of the time, they will prevail with this tactic, because it is incredibly difficult to prove most civil claims. If you can’t even distinguish between criminal and civil law, you have no business making comments on either.

    None of the players have any chance in court at fighting their discipline. Vilma’s attorneys have gone on a wild goose chase with the defamation claim (less than 1% of defamation claims ever succeed), so don’t you think they’d also be willing to take on the employment claim if they thought it had a greater chance of success? In fact, Vilma’s attorneys don’t see any chance at all with an employment claim, or they would already have filed.

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