New Orleans Saints

Jonathan Vilma's Suit Against Roger Goodell Is Tough to Prove

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23:  Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints calls a defensive play during a game against the Indianapolis Colts being held at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 23, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Colts 62-7. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Brandon TrippContributor IIIMay 18, 2012

When the news came down that suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suing Roger Goodell for defamation of character I, like many of you, was taken aback.

After looking at the claims Vilma is making, I was taken aback again.

This is from an article by the Associated Press:

The lawsuit states that Goodell, "knew and intended that Vilma would suffer severe emotional distress" when the NFL published its bounty report and handed down punishment for the 30-year-old linebacker.

That is going to be incredibly hard for Vilma to prove.

First of all, he must prove that he truly never paid or intended to pay players for hits in the 2009 Minnesota Vikings game. Goodell claims Vilma had said that he would pay $10,000 to anyone who took Brett Favre out of the game.

He must then prove that Goodell knowingly received bad information, which he knew was false and then decided to publicly release anyway.

The burden does not lie with Goodell in the lawsuit. Essentially, he could sit back, offer up what proof he has against Vilma, and if it turns out to be false he would say that he thought it was reliable and had no reason to believe that it was false.

This is not going to end very well for Vilma. He has just poked a billion-dollar bear with a stick and now, whether right or wrong, the NFL is going to unleash the hammer as soon as the player’s appeals are ruled on.

What makes the situation worse for Vilma is that other people have already claimed culpability in the bounty program. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams offered an apology, and so did the rest of the Saints coaches who were involved.

It was also leaked to the media that Anthony Hargrove, in a sworn statement, admitted to being asked to deny the existence of the bounty program to NFL investigators, which he later did.

Whether or not Vilma is innocent in relation to the Brett Favre incident, he is going to have to prove something that ultimately comes down to "he said he said", and Goodell will walk away without losing a dime.

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