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League files grievance against Vilma for pursuing defamation case

Jonathan Vilma Portrait Shoot

METAIRIE, LA - MAY 28: Jonathan Vilma, #51 of the New Orleans Saints, poses for a photo at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility on May 28, 2008 in Metairie, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Chris Graythen

Things have quieted down a bit in connection with the Saints bounty scandal, but the present calm comes merely from a minor break in the line of storms.

Eventually, the lawsuits filed recently in Louisiana will heat up, with inevitable efforts to block the suspensions pending the outcome of the courtroom challenges to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s exercise of power over the players. As to the defamation claim filed by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma against Goodell, however, the NFL has thrown down the proverbial gloves.

Vilma has disclosed on Twitter that the league has asked him, perhaps not politely, to abandon the case.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the more accurate description is that the NFL has filed a grievance under the CBA against the NFLPA and Vilma seeking an order forcing Vilma to dismiss his defamation suit. On Wednesday, lawyer Peter Ginsberg informed the league that Vilma will not be withdrawing the defamation suit, arguing that the grievance filed by the league has no merit.

The letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained, contends that the grievance procedure contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t apply in this case, because Vilma filed his suit not “against the NFL or any Club” but against Goodell, and because the defamation claim arises not from the suspension imposed by Goodell on Vilma but from the allegedly false public statements made by Goodell before imposing discipline.

The grievance “constitutes an improper effort to interfere with a pending judicial matter,” Ginsberg writes in his letter to Dennis Curran, NFL Sr. Vice President of Labor Litigation & Policy. “If you pursue the Grievance, we will consider seeking sanctions against the NFL [Management Council] before Honorable Helen G. Berrigan . . . based on NFLMC’s improper attempt to obstruct a pending judicial action in which it is not a party.”

So, yes, as Vilma surmises, the NFL “no likey [his] lawsuitey.” And Vilma’s lawyer doesn’t like how the NFL is voicing its displeasure.

And the end result is that the ever-twisting-and-turning bounty case has developed yet another twist and/or turn.