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Vilma will argue Goodell’s public comments went beyond CBA

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So with Commissioner Roger Goodell defending himself against Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit by claiming that the Collective Bargaining Agreement blocks the allegations, what will Vilma do to get around what appears to be a strong argument rooted in basic principles of labor law?

Vilma will claim that Goodell went beyond the borders of the CBA when making public statements regarding Vilma’s alleged role in the bounty program.

“Jonathan’s defamation lawsuit focuses exclusively on statements Mr. Goodell has made publicly and outside the confines of the CBA,” lawyer Peter Ginsberg tells Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal.  “Mr. Goodell, like all citizens, must abide by certain standards and laws.  Having the title of ‘Commissioner’ does not provide Mr. Goodell with a license to make the accusations and allegations he has made against Jonathan in public forums without facing the same scrutiny as other citizens.”

The league surely will contend that the public comments were directly related to and arose from the suspensions, and that given the tremendous popularity of and public interest in the NFL the comments were necessary.  Vilma, via Ginsberg, likely will argue that no comment was needed beyond the basic announcement of the suspension, which the league employees when suspending players for violation of the substance-abuse policy or the steroids policy.

The outcome of this issue will go a long way toward determining whether Ginsberg will be able to use the discovery process to get to the truth, whatever the truth may be.

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15 Responses to “Vilma will argue Goodell’s public comments went beyond CBA”
  1. thegreatgabbert says: Jul 5, 2012 4:34 PM

    Raj went so far beyond the CBA, he needs a CAB to get back to it.

  2. kidpresentable says: Jul 5, 2012 4:34 PM

    “Vilma, via Ginsberg, likely will argue that no comment was needed beyond the basic announcement of the suspension,”

    Right. Because nobody would have second-guessed a full-season suspension with no explanation.

    Ginsberg is just throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks. At best, all we’re getting is stickier crap.

  3. bigwalt2990 says: Jul 5, 2012 4:36 PM

    Thats a good point. If I were the judge…I would go on vacation…

  4. butthatmakestoomuchsense says: Jul 5, 2012 4:42 PM

    kidpresentable says: Right. Because nobody would have second-guessed a full-season suspension with no explanation.

    But now it’s time to back that explanation up with evidence.

    The fans of the NFL deserve to know exactly what, if anything, sets Vilma apart from every other player in deserving such a harsh punishment.

    Roger, show us the evidence. Show us why Vilma needs to lose an entire year. Why is this too much to ask?

  5. baddorange says: Jul 5, 2012 5:32 PM

    Time for him to go

  6. FinFan68 says: Jul 5, 2012 7:14 PM

    What were the public comments made? I remember he sent a memo to all the teams and it had the allegation in there. I doubt that goes beyond the CBA since all the teams are bound by it. He was just trying to send a message to get the rest of the bounty/pay for performance programs eliminated league-wide.

    While I don’t think Goodell is acting inappropriately I see how it looks that way. I think he messed up when he targeted a few “ringleaders” rather than disciplining all that were involved. It was probably easier to get witness statements with promises of anonymity and or immunity but now he needs to defend why a specific player was punished differently than others. All involved serving a 2 game suspension would have been much easier to defend but the damage to the team would have been much more substantial.

  7. silentcount says: Jul 5, 2012 7:18 PM

    Before the appeal, Vilma asked Goodell for any evidence that would also support his innocence. The fact that the main “witness” recanted his claims was what he was referring to. That would have been a big part of providing a defense, which Goodell intentionally wouldn’t allow. No matter which lawsuit makes it to court, this will most certainly cause Goodell to automatically lose. Don’t blame Vilma for all of this law suit mess. Goodell brought this on himself.

  8. mancave001 says: Jul 5, 2012 9:07 PM

    butthatmakestoomuchsense says:
    Jul 5, 2012 4:42 PM
    But now it’s time to back that explanation up with evidence.

    The fans of the NFL deserve to know exactly what, if anything, sets Vilma apart from every other player in deserving such a harsh punishment.

    Roger, show us the evidence. Show us why Vilma needs to lose an entire year. Why is this too much to ask?
    ———————————

    You might want that, but he’s not required to give it to you. The defamation lawsuit has zero chance of going anywhere, and Vilma likely knows it. You’d have to prove that Goodell knowingly disseminated material he knew to be false, as well as intent to inure Vilma. Not bloodily likely.

  9. vikingamericann says: Jul 5, 2012 9:29 PM

    kidpresentable Needs an explanation

  10. rhodeislandpatriotsfan says: Jul 5, 2012 10:19 PM

    There is nothing in Goodell’s public statements on this matter of which I am aware—including quotes attributed to him in the NFL’s March 21 announcement on management discipline—that convinces me the Commissioner would be unable to act impartially as an appeal hearing officer in the context of a player disciplinary hearing under Article 46 of the 2011 NFL CBA.

  11. thejuddstir says: Jul 5, 2012 10:23 PM

    Try to set your bias’s aside for a moment and truely listen to the round-robin arguement that Ginsberg/Vilma are trying to present…..as evidence. They want Goodell to say what proof he has…..but sue for defamation becuz he said something. Forget the CBA we just signed, we want a court of law to be judge. Perhaps now some of the rubes can understand why the NFL isn’t producing more of their evidence. When it’s not needed don’t show it, if this crazy scheme of Vilma’s ever sees the inside of a courtroom (outside of the State of Louisiana) then the big guns will come out. Ginsberg has never won anything for a single NFL player and he’s not about to now, the fool is out of his “league” when dealing with THE league. Goodell, the NFL and their team of lawyers are playing Ginsberg and Vilma like a grand puppeteer….painting them into a corner. Mark my words, a couple of years from now when Vilma is penniless, he will try to sue his lawyer Ginsberg for misrepresentation or “ineffective counsel”.

  12. chi01town says: Jul 5, 2012 10:54 PM

    Vilma CHEATED… Him an rest of the Saints was deliberately out to hurt other players, its time to pay for that. Goodell done the right thing,… and I dont think Goodell should be allowed with in 1000 miles of the NFL, I TRUELY belive Goodell will destroy the game if he is given enough time.. Goodell is more dangerous to the NFL then the Saints an I just hope the NFLPA figure that out before its too late

  13. mwindle1973 says: Jul 5, 2012 11:14 PM

    silentcount says: Jul 5, 2012 7:18 PM

    Before the appeal, Vilma asked Goodell for any evidence that would also support his innocence. The fact that the main “witness” recanted his claims was what he was referring to. That would have been a big part of providing a defense, which Goodell intentionally wouldn’t allow. No matter which lawsuit makes it to court, this will most certainly cause Goodell to automatically lose. Don’t blame Vilma for all of this law suit mess. Goodell brought this on himself.

    ________________

    You are so bent on the evidence being presented. Do you realize that all these claims like the main witness recanted his claims, etc, etc. are unproven. There is no evidence. Just some unnamed mystery source has made all these allegations. Yet most people that are against the NFL on this issue, accept all these rumors without one shred of evidence. Wake up! No key witness recanted their testimony or we would have seen some kind of proof of that.

  14. silentcount says: Jul 6, 2012 12:25 AM

    Windle — Refer to “Close associate to Cerullo, the fired coach, confirmed that he met with Goodell to recant his original claims.” This is more believable than the hand written notes with inaccurate info, that were probably written 2 years later only to satisfy Goodell’s need for physical evidence. In either case, it’s important enough for a court to be involved.

  15. piemasteruk says: Jul 6, 2012 3:02 AM

    I’m no expert on American law, so maybe someone who is could help me out or correct me here.

    In a court of law, the onus of proof is on the accuser. So if Goddell was accusing the Saints of having a bounty system and this was tried through a mainstream judicial system, then the onus would be on him to prove they did it, and in absence of any proof either way they would be found not guilty. However, this is bypassed by using the grievance procedure outlined in the CBA, so Goddell doesn’t *need* to prove beyond reasonable doubt, he is more or less judge, jury and executioner.

    But if Vilma files a defamation claim through the courts, then surely that will be subject to the usual rules of innocent until proven guilty. In other words Vilma (as the accuser) will need to demonstrate that Goddell ‘s accusations were untrue/unfounded, which would place the onus of proof on him. I’m not sure Goddell can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Saints had a bounty system in place, but I’m pretty sure Vilma can’t prove they didn’t. In fact, this law suit may end up causing the players n question a lot more harm than good, because when they lose it could be seen as a vindication of the bounty accusations.

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