The league hadn’t responded to the Associated Press regarding Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s new Saturday-night’s-all-right-for-suing effort to overturn his suspension. The league has since responded to the new lawsuit, via a statement emailed to PFT.
“We have not yet had an opportunity to review Mr. Vilma’s improper effort to litigate a matter that is committed to a collectively bargained process,” the league said, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “There is no basis for asking a federal court to substitute its judgment for the procedures agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA, procedures that have been in place, and have served the game well, for decades.”
The league’s contention regarding the substitution of judgment is entirely accurate. As we recently explained, courts won’t substitute their judgment for the judgment of a private arbitrator.
That said, it’s fair to attack the process as being unfair. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, the four reasons for throwing out an arbitration award are: (1) if the decision was “procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means”; (2) if there was “evident partiality or corruption by the arbitrator”; (3) if the arbitrator was “guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone a hearing, in refusing to hear evidence, or in misbehaving in some other way”; or (4) the arbitrator “exceeded his powers and imperfectly executed them.” Though we’ve yet to actually see Vilma’s lawsuit or any briefs filed in support of efforts to block the suspension pending the outcome of the litigation, it’s likely that Vilma’s legal effort will be confined to those four factors.
And while the league may disagree regarding the application of those factors, it’s not improper for Vilma to assert his rights, if he believes in good faith that application of those factors requires the ruling on his suspension to be overturned, and if he has evidence that would support a conclusion that his belief if accurate.