Thursday, May 24, 2012
Updated: May 25, 10:16 AM ET
James Harrison applauds lawsuit
ESPN.com news services
The way James Harrison sees it, all of the NFL's players stand to benefit from Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell, even if the New Orleans Saints linebacker loses his fight.
"It is really a win-win, whether he wins the case or if he loses it," Harrison said Wednesday after the Pittsburgh Steelers held an organized team activity. "If he loses it, it shows that Goodell does have too much power and if he wins it, it opens up the floodgates."
The Steelers linebacker spoke to a group of reporters that included representatives of WXPI-TV and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Vilma filed his lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, claiming Goodell made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hindered his ability to earn a living playing football. Vilma was the only player suspended for the season as a result of the Saints' bounty program, which the NFL alleges ran from the 2009 to 2011 seasons.
Vilma's lawsuit, which is expected to be heard by Judge Ginger Berrigan, asks for unspecified monetary damages as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
Harrison has long been an outspoken critic of the NFL's commissioner and has been fined more than $100,000 in his career for hits the league has deemed illegal. In December, he became the first player to be suspended under the league's stricter guidelines for player safety after his hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
Harrison questioned the severity of penalties dealt to Vilma and coach Sean Payton (also suspended for the season) against the punishment handed out to the Saints' franchise.
"He only gave the team a half-million dollar fine and two second-round draft picks, and that's a billion-dollar organization," Harrison said. "But yet you take a whole year's pay away from the guy that is below him and you take a whole year's pay away from the head coach. But the actual team themselves, you slap them on the wrist."
The Tribune-Review reported that Harrison also said the NFL's players should have assured the 10-year collective bargaining agreement they agreed to last year had more checks of Goodell's power included before they signed it. The newspaper reported that Harrison was quick to point out the Steelers were the only team not to vote in favor of the CBA.