Jonathan Vilma Sues Roger Goodell in Federal Court in Louisiana


More Breaking news from Bounty Gate.

Jonathan Vilma (whose appeal of his NFL suspension was heard last week) is suing Roger Goodell in Federal Court in Louisiana.  You can see a copy of the claim here.

Vilma is alleging that Goodell has made public comments about him that are false, defamatory, and injure Vilma’s personal and professional reputation.  These comments are related to what Goodell has said was Vilma’s role in the New Orleans’ Saints Bounty program.

The issue appears to be that Goodell has accused Vilma of putting $10,000 cash up for the injuring of Brett Favre.  Of course if Goodell can prove that his statements about Vilma are true, it would essentially defeat the defamation claim.

This appears to be an attempt by Vilma and his Lawyers to force Goodell to release the Bountygate evidence, something the NFL has been unwilling to do to this point.  Without releasing the evidence, Goodell will be unable to prove that what he has publicly said about Vilma is true.  This is a key point in the case and one made throughout the pleadings.  The statements of Goodell in the media stating that he has the evidence but then refusing to release it when requested by Vilma’s counsel are going to be a key issue in the case.

The claim asks for both compensatory and punitive damages, meaning there could be huge money on the line here (especially considering Vilma’s salary as an NFL player, and his opportunities for endorsements on the compensatory side) and whatever the courts will award for punitive damages.

It is important to note that this claim has been filed against Roger Goodell personally and not against the National Football League.  This is an important distinction as it may be a way for Vilma to avoid being forced to use the grievance process provided for under the NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I caution of course, (along with the disclaimer below) that I am not a Member of the Louisiana Bar, and as such am not an expert in the particulars of the law in their state… this is just a personal overview of the case and is no way intended to be legal advice.

…. and that is the Last Word (for now).



  1. Just as a follow up – the way this would work in Canada is that, following the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Weber v. Ontario Hydro, [1995] 2 SCR 929, that since this essential character of the dispute relates to statements made by Goodell relating to suspending Vilma, which is govern by the collective agreement, Vilma would be *required* to file a grievance, and the courts jurisdiction to hear the dispute would be ousted.
    However, since I’m not a member of the Louisiana Bar either – I’m not sure how it works there. But it wouldn’t shock me if they had a similar type mechanism…

    • Thanks Tony for adding that.

      In Canada the question of whether Goodell was acting as an individual or in his role as Commissioner of the NFL would be quite clear and would force this back under the CBA.

      I have to think the same principle isn’t at work here, because I doubt someone would advise Vilma to file this suit if it could so easily be struck down in court.

      Stranger things have happened though.