NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jonathan Casillas #52 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with Roman Harper #41 and Jonathan Vilma #51 after sacking Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears at Louisiana Superdome on September 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
It seems NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is not, in fact, the judge and jury over NFL players.
Vilma filed suit in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, for, "speaking publicly about certain Saints executives, coaches and players, in relation to purported efforts designed to injure opposing players, made public statements concerning Vilma which were false, defamatory and injurious to Vilma's professional and personal reputation."
The suit is not seeking a higher ruling on the suspension, but rather, it claims damage was done to Vilma's reputation due to statements issued by Goodell without furnishing evidence.
There's no CBA to protect the Commissioner. There's no hiding behind it, there's no lack of disclosure. The Commissioner will be tried in court over the validity of claims and statements alleging Vilma paid into a fund rewarding players for injuring their opponents.
And rest assured, Goodell absolutely will fight this. His credibility, as well as the controversial aspect of the CBA giving Goodell the authority to dole out suspensions as well as rule on the appeal, will come into question.
In the past, Goodell has given out suspensions without being made to disclose evidence, such was the case in the SpyGate scandal involving the New England Patriots in 2007.
Assuming Goodell didn't destroy evidence this time, he will be questioned, in open court, about what evidence he had to issue a year-long suspension to Vilma, as well as 2009 Saints teammates Scott Fujita (three games), Anthony Hargrove (eight games) and Will Smith (four games).
It very well could be true that Goodell had evidence to suspend the four players, but the issue has been the fact he's gone public with the accusations, quotes and alleged testimony, but he never produced documented proof of the players' involvement.
If this suit is thrown out, or the judge ruled against Vilma, he will have accomplished at least a semblance of due process.
And great precedent for future players judged guilty without proof to at least make the league