Daily Special, May 18, 2012

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Let’s see. Willie Roaf says he wanted to stay in New Orleans. Um, Drew Brees is still upset, and Cris Carter is concerned. Rita’s still missing (as far as we know). There just doesn’t seem to be too much going on right now, Saints-wise.

Oh, and Jonathan Vilma filed suit against Roger Goodell.

I’m trying to stay calm here. This is exactly what I’ve been saying Vilma should do for weeks now, and damned if he and his legal team didn’t listen to me. If I didn’t know it would ultimately put money into the deep pockets of the NFL, I’d buy the man’s jersey.

There remains the question: what does it mean? You thought I was going to ask, can he win? There are a number of answers to that last one: sure, why not, doesn’t matter. Pick one. The only truly important aspect is that the suit—if it proceeds—will force discovery upon the NFL. And that’s why I ask instead: what does it mean?

If the charges brought against Vilma and the Saints are not true, that means the motive for bringing them is other than a genuine desire to punish a rogue team for breaking the rules. As things stand right now, I’m far from convinced the charges are true. But I still don’t know exactly what the league hoped to accomplish by bringing them. Insulating themselves from player lawsuits is the most handy answer, and it has a lot of merit. I’ve used it myself. But it doesn’t seem to be working: the lawsuits multiply, as do the suicides, which puts the league in a tough spot. The bounty penalties ultimately are nothing but PR—they don’t really affect legal liability, if any, on the part of the league.

So why’d they do it?

I can only see two possibilities: either the Saints really are guilty; or something truly rotten is going on inside the NFL. Something that goes beyond mere public relations. Something that the league cannot afford to expose to public view in a court of law.

That could make this the most significant sports story a journalist could cover in his entire career. So what are the leads this morning?

CBS Sports leads with the NFL’s Top 100 players. ESPN profiles the elite pass rushers of the NFC East. Fox Sports tells us it’s Vince Young’s last chance in Buffalo. National Football Post goes Inside the Playbook with Tim Tebow. NBC Sports gives us Rotoworld’s top fantasy prospects. Pro Football Weekly wonders who has the better offense, the Eagles or the Lions? Sporting News picks the ten players who must rebound in 2012.

Only Sports Illustrated and Yahoo seem to understand the enormity of what just happened. Oh, sure, the others have links—but they’re treating it like spot news. At SI, it’s NEWS. Michael McCann, who writes on sports law, explains what’s at stake in the lawsuit and how it might proceed.

Yahoo also gives the story top feature treatment, plus a feature by Michael Silver praising Vilma for his courage. (CBS’s Mike Freeman, on the other hand, is a whiny pot blasting the kettle for being a crybaby, and I refuse to give him a link.)

Still, these guys seem to be missing something. This thing has gotten huge. If the suit proceeds to discovery, there’s risk on both sides of all sorts of things coming out. The NFL is staring its ultimate nightmare in the face: Congressional oversight. If Vilma wins his lawsuit, or even plausibly demonstrates that Goodell and the NFL are out of control, DC could step in—and once they do, everything is fair game. It would no longer be limited to the facts of the bounty case. The league has to quash this and do it fast. My own bet is they’ll concentrate on having the suit dismissed, but it looks to be too strong for that, too plausible.

What they should do is back off, rescind the suspensions, settle. But they can’t do that, either. Because how long would it be before Sean Payton files suit?

What we’re looking at right now could be, in fact, the beginning of the end for the NFL. So why does it feel so delicious?

Posted by Himself in Daily Specials | 10 comments

10 Comments

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  • SaintsW1nMay 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

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    Delicious is right. Fuck ‘em. I could not be more entertained by all of this.

    As an aside, if this HMS HammerGate Scandal thingamajig against the Saints turns out to be, in fact, a manufactured PR strategy (birthed by flimsily-sourced claims) to develop a perception of “concern for player safety,” then it will be one of the biggest miscalculations any big business has made.

    Even if a bounty program existed as claimed, it’s still mostly irrelevant to mounting lawsuits. Those are from years of the NFL…ahem…lying to its players about the seriousness of head injuries, combined with the league’s failure to provide any meaningful post-career health coverage/disability. To the retired players, it’s payback time for feeling used up and discarded. That’s happening regardless of any bounty program anywhere.

    Every squirming dog will have his day. It appears that Goodell’s is nigh.

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  • insidejobMay 18, 2012 at 10:58 am

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    I for one am entertained by this whole thing. The claims by Vilma in his suit should be enough to get this thing to discovery. He’s not suing because he was suspended. He is suing because he says that Roger Goodell straight up lied, manufactured evidence to suit his own needs and will have forever tarnished Vilma’s image. If it was just a suit about the suspension, Goodell would be covered by the CBA and ultimately the case would be thrown out.

    I want to see Goodell flogged for this, but there is part of me that worries that there is some smoking gun that nobody knows about and could do more harm than good if revealed.

    Vilma’s vehemence in denying the allegations against him give me hope that there is no smoking gun against him. Hope he either didn’t do what he’s accused of doing or at least covered his tracks really, really well.

    We’ll see.

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    • HimselfMay 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

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      Regarding a “smoking gun,” consider that Vilma was the defense’s “quarterback.” As such, he must have been in all the meetings at which anything incriminating might have taken place. If he feels confident there’s nothing they can pin on him, I take that as a good sign that there’s nothing they can pin on anyone else, either.

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      • David KellyMay 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm

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        If there is a “smoking gun,” why would Goodell be holding it back? He’s clearly been intent on serving up Saints bits on a platter to the media all along. He first leaked this to the media and has been using the media this whole time to make an example out of the Saints. This has been satisfying his ego and need to display his power while at the same time broadcasting to the world that he is deadly serious about player safety, which is something I still don’t believe. He’s wanted this in the court of public opinion the whole time for serving this greater purpose. If he had more on the Saints, he would have already put it out there. No question. Based on how players have vehemently denied this bounty program and the fact that the Saints D never did on the field what this scandal suggests (where are all of the cart-offs and knock-outs?), I propose that Goodell does not have anything else to disclose. If anything, he probably has evidence that this sort of thing was going on all over the league and not just in the Saints meeting rooms. He wants the Saints to take the fall for it and doesn’t want it to spread to other teams.

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  • PhilistineMay 18, 2012 at 11:57 am

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    Vilma was expecting a two- to eight-game suspension. If Goodell had limited the suspension to somewhere in that range, do you think Vilma would have taken this step? I think not. Goodell’s overreach is about to cost someone – and it was entirely avoidable.

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  • FriarBobMay 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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    Your links to “explains” and “Michael Silver” go back to this back instead of where you intended them to go.

    Would be nice if you could fix that…

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  • FriarBobMay 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm

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    What we’re looking at right now could be, in fact, the beginning of the end for the NFL. So why does it feel so delicious?

    Because we USED to be fans of the NFL. But when they attacked our team, our initial reactions varied widely. I at first assumed it must be true and was mad at the team for being so STUPID as to do something like this. Then the holes started showing and I got REALLY pissed at the NFL.

    Screw the NFL. They don’t deserve to survive anymore. If that means soccer wins, I’ll just go play a real sport like volleyball and find something better to do with my life on Sundays. For that matter, I might do that anyway.

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    • AcadieMay 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm

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      Whoa there buddy. A world without football is not one I want to contemplate just yet.

      I do wonder, if the league got serious about taking care of their own, could we preserve the game in it’s current state? Or are we on the road to flag football anyway?

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  • whodatnezMay 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm

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    There’s always baseball.

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    • HimselfMay 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm

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      Oh, fie.

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