The NFL Players Association sued the NFL on Thursday on behalf of three players suspended for their roles in the league's bounty investigation. Meanwhile, Commissioner Roger Goodell filed a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against him by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Filed in federal court in New Orleans, the NFLPA lawsuit claims Goodell violated the collective bargaining agreement by saying publicly that he decided that Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita had participated in a bounty system with the Saints even before serving as an arbitrator at their hearing.
The lawsuit asks a judge to set aside earlier arbitration rulings and order a new arbitrator.
"It would be an absurd and thus unsustainable interpretation (of the CBA) to conclude that the NFLPA granted the Commissioner the right to serve as the arbitrator for suspensions and fines of NFL players without a commitment to conducting a fair 'hearing' process," the lawsuit states, according to the Sports Business Daily.
In response, the league stated: "As in the case of Mr. Vilma's lawsuit, this is an improper attempt to litigate an issue that is committed to a collectively bargained process. There is no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining. These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades."
The suit comes two days after Goodell denied appeals by four players. The fourth player, Vilma, sued the NFL and Goodell separately. According to NFL.com, Goodell's motion to dismiss was filed in Louisiana District Court and claimed that Vilma's claims were all "relating to and emanating from Commissioner Goodell's imposition of discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football."
The collective bargaining agreement gives Goodell the authority to impose discipline, and he said in a letter to the four players announcing the denial of their appeals that they have not produced evidence to warrant shortening or eliminating their suspensions.
Goodell faced a Thursday deadline to file an answer brief to the initial complaint.
"and we're off..." Vilma tweeted Thursday.