Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended one full season for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal, and immediately appealed. Beyond that, the NFLPA argued before independent arbitrator Shyam Das (we've heard his name before) that Roger Goodell didn't have the authority to punish players.
This afternoon, a third tactic. Jonathan Vilma has filed a defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell, claiming Goodell's public statements have slandered Vilma's good name. That suit, filed in District Court in Louisiana, is embedded below.
After running through all of time times Goodell has had Vilma's name in his mouth, the suit gets right down to the reason he feels this is defamation: the bounty stuff never happened. Under a section helpfully headed "The Truth," the suit states:
35. Vilma never established, or assisted in establishing, a Bounty Program or any similar program in violation of NFL rules.
36. Vilma never "pledged," made or received payments of any kind encouraging or resulting from an opposing player being carried off the field, i.e., "cart-offs."
37. Vilma never "pledged," made or received payments of any kind encouraging or resulting from an opposing player being unable to return to the game, i.e., "knockouts."
38. Vilma never "pledged," made or received payments of any kind encouraging or resulting from an opposing player being injured.
39. Vilma never "targeted" an opposing player in any manner that would violate NFL rules.
40. Vilma never engaged "in unsafe and prohibited conduct intended to injure players."
41. Vilma never "participate[d] in a program that potentially injured opposing players."
42. Vilma never "embraced" a Bounty Program or any similar program in violation of NFL rules.
43. Vilma never paid, or intended to pay, $10,000, or any amount of money, as an incentive to any player to knock Warner, Favre, or any other player, out of the 2009 Divisional Playoff Game, 2010 NFC Championship Game, or any other game.
44. Vilma never placed $10,000, or any amount of money, on any table or anywhere else as part of a Bounty Program or any other program in violation of NFL rules.
Vilma doesn't deny or acknowledge the existence of a bounty program, but he's making clear that his official position is he never took part. He's asking for unspecified damages, if I can put my fake lawyerin' cap on for a moment, this is less about collecting money from Roger Goodell than pressuring him to turn over or make public evidence gathered in the Saints investigation. That's been Vilma's goal all along. NFL discipline is not criminal court; the accused doesn't have the right to see the evidence against them. But if Goodell wants to defend himself from this suit by claiming the allegations made about Vilma are true, he'll need to back it up.
"Maybe this will get some people attention," Vilma tweeted.