Suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has sued NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation.
Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the Saints’ ‘bounty’ scandal, in which New Orleans players were allegedly rewarded for hard hits and injuring opposition players.
According to an NFL investigation, Vilma, a defensive captain, offered $10,000 for a player to knock out then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre or then-Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in 2010 – a charge he vehemently denies.
“Maybe this will get some people’s attention,” Vilma wrote on Twitter.
“As I’ve said before, I’ve never paid or intended to pay any amount of money to any player for intentionally hurting an opponent.”
The suit filed in the US district court in New Orleans claims Goodell ‘relied on, at best, hearsay, circumstantial evidence and lies’ in making comments about the eight-year NFL veteran.
“Commissioner Goodell opted to enter into the public arena rather than proceed appropriately and deliberately within the confines of the NFL process,” Vilma’s lawyer Peter Ginsberg told the official NFL website.
“In doing that, he made a series of horrific and false accusations about Jonathan. The commissioner, having wandered into the public arena, is now being asked to answer for the damage he’s done in making those erroneous accusations.
“He made some serious accusations, which we will be able to prove in a fair forum, that were irresponsible.”
Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who admitted to coordinating the bounty program, was banned indefinitely while Saints coach Sean Payton was expelled for the 2012 season.
Lineman Anthony Hargrove (eight games), defensive end Will Smith (four) and linebacker Scott Fujita (three) were also suspended for their roles in the scandal but have all filed grievances against the NFL.
“This lawsuit is directed to Jon trying to win back his reputation,” Ginsberg said.
The NFL said in a statement it was yet to review the filing.
Goodell succeeded the retiring Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner in 2006 and is considered by many American pundits as ‘the most powerful man in sports’.
No date has been set for the trial.