|NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) asked for a dismissal of Saints LB Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit.|
The legal maneuver by Goodell and the NFL is standard procedure for a defendant in a case like this one. Thursday marked the commissioner's deadline to file an answer brief to the initial complaint from Vilma, who received a season-long suspension after the NFL's investigation into the Saints' "bounty" program.
Goodell's reply claimed that Vilma's claims were all "relating to and emanating from Commissioner Goodell's imposition of discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football," according to the court document. That refers to the power Goodell wields over the appeals process in cases under the NFL's personal-conduct policy, under which "conduct detrimental" falls.
The reply brief thus contended that Vilma's claims "represent an improper attempt to circumvent the mandatory and binding dispute resolution procedures required by the NFL CBA." Goodell's reply included 715 pages of exhibits, though 317 of those pages were the CBA itself, and another 237 were excerpted pieces from its constitution and bylaws.
Goodell also filed a request for oral argument in connection with his motion to dismiss, and an Aug. 1 hearing was set for that motion in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana before Judge Helen Berringer.
Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said in an email following Goodell's filing: "We look forward to the time when the legal maneuverings end and we can finally address the merits of the Commissioner's public -- and erroneous -- accusations against Jonathan.
"As Williams Gladstone, the British scholar, said, 'Justice delayed is justice denied.' Jonathan deserves justice and the commissioner should answer for what he has done to Jonathan. Simply because the commissioner's attorneys can file motions, and delay the defamation claims from proceeding at the moment, does not mean it is the proper way to proceed. Jonathan, the NFL, its fans, and all of its players, deserve a transparent and open airing of this serious situation."
Vilma also amended his initial complaint to the district court Thursday, asking for a temporary restraining order hearing. A temporary restraining order would keep Vilma's suspension from starting, pending a preliminary injunction hearing.
Following Goodell's filings this morning, Vilma said on his Twitter account: "And we're off ..."
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