|Goodell says he is unconcerned about his popularity. (AP)|
Earlier this month, New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the 2012 season for his role in the Saints bounty scandal. Last week, Vilma's attorney filed a defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The complaint read, in part, that "Vilma seeks to recover damages for defamatory statements made by Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League. … Goodell, 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."
At issue: the league hasn't released evidence showing that Saints players, coaches and front-office members were involved in the pay-for-performance allegations leveled against them in early March.
As I've said before..I NEVER PAID, NOR INTENDED TO PAY ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY,TO ANY PLAYER FOR INTENTIONALLY HURTING AN OPPONENT.— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) May 17, 2012
On Tuesday at the league's spring meeting, Goodell said that the NFL plans to release to the public proof of wrongdoing by those already punished for their roles in the bounty scandal.
While the commissioner declined comment on Vilma's defamation lawsuit, he offered a "Yes, I do," in response to a question about whether he expected the evidence to be made public. Details via NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal:
Goodell pointed out that the league released facts in March and is going through the appeals process with the NFL Players Association. He indicated that the league won't release any more information publicly until the appeals and grievance processes are finished.
Goodell added that the NFLPA "expressly told the players not to cooperate in the bounty investigation. I invited them in and they decided not to do that," he said.
As the appeals and grievance process plays out, Goodell remains the target of criticism for players.
"You don't worry about a popularity contest," he said. "You can't. You can't make everyone happy on this."
Lessening the pain for the commissioner? Pulling down $20 million a year. And if all that money doesn't fill the void, there's always the draft (cue "Dust in the Wind").