[Editor’s note: The lawyer representing Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Peter Ginsberg, has released a statement in response to his renewed bounty discipline. The full statement appears below.]
Commissioner Goodell has crafted a “revised punishment” that continues his previous grossly misplaced interpretation of the “evidence.” What the Commissioner did today is not justice, nor just. The suspension has the fingerprints of lawyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to appease an Appeals Panel decision ordering the Commissioner to pay attention to his authority under the CBA. Someone needs to tell the Commissioner directly that his duties also include being true to the evidence, to fundamental notions of due process and to the integrity of the game. That time hopefully will come soon.
Rather than fairly and impartially evaluate the evidence, the Commissioner instead has wrapped his arms around the architect of pay-for-performance programs, Gregg Williams, and attributes Williams’ inflammatory language and bizarre slide shows not to Williams but to the players Williams coached.
Jonathan Vilma did not offer a bounty or any incentive to any teammate to injure an opposing player. Commissioner Goodell has now called every one of the dozen or more players and coaches a “liar” who has played the games with Jonathan and been in the locker room with Jonathan and who has sworn under oath to that fact. And to make matters worse, the Commissioner blatantly ignores other evidence that shows Jonathan did not do what the Commissioner, again, accuses him of doing. As but one example, Jonathan’s bank records show that he did not withdraw $10,000 from his account at any time during the 2009 playoffs (or at any other time), the time period when the Commissioner claims Jonathan offered that amount of money as a bounty on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Consistent with the Commissioner’s disregard of the evidence, he did not even request to see the bank records showing this fact.
As another example, in the sworn statements of Williams and Mike Cerullo, the people the Commissioner found “credible,” Cerullo swore under oath that he turned Jonathan’s $10,000 over to Williams after the Warner game when no one “earned the bounty,” and before the Favre game. Williams swears he never received any money from Cerullo or anyone else.
Commissioner Goodell has further damaged Jonathan’s reputation, compromised his career, and cast an unfair cloud over a fine and decent man. It is unfortunate that the process exhibited by the NFL has had no decency.