New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is taking on the NFL commissioner… (Seth Perlman / Associated…)
The NFL punched, and now one of the New Orleans Saints has counterpunched.
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation, claiming the executive lied about him when making statements about the Saints' alleged bounty program. The suit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Vilma, a team captain, is accused of being one of the leaders of the program, and twice offering teammates $10,000 to knock quarterbacks out of playoff games — first Arizona's Kurt Warner, then Minnesota's Brett Favre.
Vilma has denied ever offering such a bounty, and the NFL Players Assn. is protesting the league's one-year suspension of him, the longest suspension of the four Saints players sanctioned.
"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.
The lawyer added: "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."
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Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma files defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell