SBD/July 6, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

More Legal Moves In Bounty Case As NFL Seeks Defamation Dismissal

Goodell, NFL asked for an Aug. 1 hearing to argue the suits should be dismissed
In a day of dueling legal motions, the NFL on Thursday asked a federal court to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought by suspended Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, while hours later the player asked the court to block the suspension. The NFL has suspended Vilma for the season for his role in the alleged bounty scandal, which Vilma denies. The league says his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and his suit against the league, are barred by federal law, which requires CBA disputes to be settled through the labor pact. However, Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, told SportsBusiness Journal, “Jonathan’s defamation lawsuit focuses exclusively on statements Mr. Goodell has made publicly and outside the confines of the CBA. Mr. Goodell, like all citizens, must abide by certain standards and laws.” He added, “Having the title of ‘Commissioner’ does not provide Mr. Goodell with a license to make the accusations and allegations he has made against Jonathan in public forums without facing the same scrutiny as other citizens.” Vilma amended his initial complaint against the NFL to take into account Goodell’s Tuesday denial of his appeal. He also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on Thursday afternoon, seeking for the Louisiana federal court to block his suspension. The NFL and Goodell asked for an Aug. 1 hearing to argue that the lawsuits should be dismissed. The lawsuits filed by Vilma have been consolidated. Meanwhile, the NFLPA on Thursday also filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of the other three suspended players, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove. The arguments are fairly similar: that the NFL relied on faulty evidence and did not offer a fair process. And as with Vilma’s now consolidated lawsuits, the NFL’s response is that federal labor law requires the disputes to be adjudicated through the CBA’s dispute resolution mechanisms.
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