Vilma Puts Bounty on Goodell; Sues For Defamation

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Jonathan Vilma fights back.

Jonathan Vilma, suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker, is not accepting his punishment for allegedly heading a bounty program aimed at injuring opposing players without a fight. How’s this for hutzpah? Vilma has filed a lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming he levied false statements against Vilma that damaged his reputation and impeded his ability to make a living as a football player.

The suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans claims Goodell, ”relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies” in making comments about Vilma while discussing the NFL’s bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints.

Vilma has been characterized by Goodell as a leader of the team’s bounty program that put up thousands of dollars for hits that knocked out opposing teams’ star players from 2009-11, including $10,000 each on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and then-Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre during the playoffs in 2010.

”Commissioner Goodell opted to make very public and unfortunately erroneous allegations against Jonathan,” said Vilma’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg. ”By making these false and public statements, he has significantly harmed Jonathan’s reputation and ability to make a living.

”By suing Commissioner Goodell in court, Jonathan opted to use a fair playing field where he has procedural rights and protections to remedy the harm Commissioner Goodell has done to him.”

Vilma wrote on his Twitter account that, ”As I’ve said before..I NEVER PAID, NOR INTENDED TO PAY ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY, TO ANY PLAYER FOR INTENTIONALLY HURTING AN OPPONENT.”

Goodell has suspended the eight-year veteran and defensive captain, for all of the upcoming season without pay and three other current of former Saints who received shorter suspensions – defensive end Will Smith, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker Scott Fujita – all have appealed their punishments. Hargrove now plays for Green Bay while Fujita is with Cleveland.

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