Since he assumed the duties of NFL Commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell has ruled the League with an iron fist. In the 2007 offseason, Goodell implemented a Player Conduct Policy, which was meant to ensure that players remain on their best behavior, otherwise they’d suffer harsher penalties than those seen under the previous regime.
Michael Vick and Adam “Pacman” Jones were the some of the more notable names to be ensnared in the new player conduct crackdown. Vick was suspended indefinitely during the 2007 offseason (reinstated in 2009) due to his involvement in a dog fighting/gambling ring. Pacman was suspended for the entire 2007 season due to multiple felony charges stemming from an incident in a Las Vegas strip club. This incident left one man paralyzed from a gunshot wound suffered during the melee.
Besides handing out harsher punishments for off the field behavior, Goodell’s reign as Commissioner has also seen a crackdown on player safety on the field. Rule changes, such better defining the term “Defenseless Player”, and added protection for quarterbacks (e.g. – no hits below the knee) , has lead to an increase in fines over the last few seasons. The changes enforced by Goodell has lead to some players calling him a dictator.
Jonathan Vilma shook up the offseason news cycle by filing a defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Goodell. Vilma is facing a season long ban in 2012 due to his (alleged) involvement in the Saints’ Bounty Scandal. This move was panned by members of the media. However, Vilma does have the support of multiple players around the League. From Yahoo!Sports’ Mike Silver:
Jonathan Vilma may not see a penny from the defamation lawsuit he filed against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday. But whatever the outcome, the suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker’s political capital among his peers is the equivalent of a blank check.
By taking on the powerful chief executive derisively known as “God-dell” to some NFL players, Vilma not only issued a challenge to the commissioner to produce some concrete evidence against the four players disciplined in the Saints’ bounty case, but he also took a symbolic shot at Goodell’s omnipotence.
“What a badass,” an offensive player for an NFC team said of Vilma on Thursday afternoon. “He’s the man. I think it’s nuts, but I love it. He’s going after Goodell. He should, too.”
A defensive player for an AFC team expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “It’s aggressive, and I love it. I’m excited to see what happens. I love the sound of ‘Vilma v. Goodell.’ This is gonna cement Vilma’s name forever.”
“If the ruling is favorable [to Vilma] in any way, it’s going to open the floodgates,” the AFC player said. “If he prevails, man, that would be sweet.”
Said the NFC player: “If Vilma wins? Oh, then he’s God. They should just put him as commissioner if that happens.”
NFL Players have been waiting for five years to find a way to challenge Roger Goodell’s authority. This lawsuit filed by Jonathan Vilma just may give them something to rally behind.