U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan dismissed Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello announced by Twitter on Thursday.
Goodell and the league sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the the league’s collective bargaining agreement prevents players from suing Goodell personally for claims of this nature. Vilma may be able to take other action against the commissioner under the CBA. He filed the suit in May.
Vilma, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, claimed Goodell tarnished his reputation by making false statements in connection with the league’s “bounty” investigation. Goodell tabbed Vilma as the ringleader of the program, claiming he offered cash to teammates to injure opponents.
”Even though this matter has been pending only since May … it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure,” Berrigan wrote in her decision, according to Yahoo! Sports. ”The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy-handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary.”
Vilma was initially suspended by Goodell for the entire 2012 season, but was allowed to play while his appeal was being heard. Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received lesser suspensions.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped into the proceedings after Goodell recused himself from the second round of appeals. Tagliabue heard the final appeals of the players and threw out their suspensions last month.
Neither Aiello nor Goodell released a comment about Thursday’s ruling by Judge Berrigan.
Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, wrote in an email to Yahoo! Sports: ”We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does not give anyone — including a commissioner — a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense of another person’s reputation — and are considering our options.”
Vilma will have 30 days to file a notice of appeal.