Jonathan Vilma exits hearing, Roger Goodell threatened with defamation lawsuit
After just an hour, the New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and his attorney Peter Ginsberg walked out of the hearing on Roger Goodell’s request for adjournment till the afternoon. Peter Ginsberg expressed that Jonathan Vilma will not be returning for the hearing the next day.
"He (Roger Goodell) attempted to adjourn it and we closed the record,” said Peter Ginsberg. "The hearing is over as far as we're concerned."
However, the other three suspended players: New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, may go back for the hearing.
“We are in attendance today not because we recognize the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations,” said the three suspended players, “but because we believe the League would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to attend.”
Jonathan Vilma took many issues with the hearing, including the fact that the commissioner Roger Goodell himself is heading the hearing. Peter Ginsberg called the hearing a “sham”, targeting the lack of evidence against Jonathan Vilma (among others) and questioning its “merits.”
"The Commissioner had legal obligations and procedural obligations,” said Peter Ginsberg. “He failed in those obligations and as far as we're concerned these proceedings are over."
"I don't know how I can get a fair process when he is the judge, jury and executioner,” said Jonathan Vilma.
Now that Jonathan Vilma has distanced himself from the hearing, doubting the transparency of the process, Peter Ginseng stated they will follow the defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell. Jonathan Vilma had earlier claimed that Roger Goodell had tarnished his reputation and ruined future prospects with employer within and outside the league by publically accusing him of participating in the bounty program.
"Roger Goodell has taken three months to tear down what I built over eight years,” stated Jonathan Vilma. “It's tough to swallow.”
“I'll be linked to a BountyGate that's simply not true," continued Jonathan Vilma. "Everyone has their opinions on it and everyone will either believe me or not believe me.”
Roger Goodell disciplined Jonathan Vilma by suspending him for a year. Anthony Hargrove was suspended for eight games, Will Smith for four and Scott Fujita will miss three games.
Roger Goodell also suspended New Orleans Saints front-office executives and fined the establishment.
Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, who arrived together with their lawyers submitted a joint statement stating that they had been “grossly misrepresented to the public,” in Roger Goodell’s attempt to “disparage” their character “based on semantics, not facts.”
"Shame on the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell for being more concerned about 'convicting' us publicly than being honorable and fair to men who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor," said the three suspended players.