NFL files grievance with union over Jonathan Vilma suit

The NFL has filed a grievance with the NFL Players Association, requesting that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma withdraw his defamation suit against Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Vilma is suing Goodell in federal court for defamation relating to Goodell's suspension of Vilma and other players in the Saints' 'bounty' program. The NFL Management Council contends -- in a letter dated July 3 and reported Wednesday by the Times-Picayune -- that Vilma's suit violates the league's collective bargaining agreement, which has a clause preventing players from suing the NFL or any club.

"Clearly, League Discipline, and the Commissioner's responsibility for upholding that Policy, is 'conduct permitted by the CBA' and under the NFL's Constitution and Bylaws. Because all challenged communication occurred in furtherance of the Commissioner's responsibility, such conduct falls squarely within the protections of Article 3's no-suit provision," the letter says.

Vilma, who separately is seeking an injunction that would prevent his season-long suspension from taking effect, responded to the NFL's action with the following tweet on Wednesday:

“The nfl sent me a letter "demanding" I drop my defamation suit or or else wat?!?? They no likey me lawsuitey”

Vilma's counsel, Peter Ginsberg, responded sharply Wednesday in a letter also obtained by the Times-Picayune, insisting that the CBA does not prevent his client from suing Goodell, and not the league or a team, for statements and not official actions as commissioner.

"Neither the NFL nor any NFL Club is a party to Mr. Vilma's lawsuit," Ginsberg says in the letter. "Mr. Goodell is the defendant in the action at issue."
Ginsberg also complained that the league failed to provide notice of the grievance to Vilma individually instead of just through the NFLPA.

Goodell filed a motion last week to dismiss Vilma's defamation lawsuit, and an Aug. 1 hearing was set in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana.

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