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UNITEDSTATESDISTRICTCOURT EASTERNDISTRICTOFLOUISIANA JONATHANVILMA VERSUS ROGERGOODELL CIVILACTION NO.121283 SECTIONC(3)

ORDERANDREASONS ThismattercomesbeforetheCourtonamotiontodismisspursuanttoRule 12(b)(6),or,alternatively,tostrikepursuanttotheLouisianaAntiSLAPPstatute,La.C.C. P.art.971,filedbythedefendant,RogerGoodell(Goodell).Havingconsideredthe record,thememorandaofcounsel,andthelaw,theCourthasdeterminedthatdismissal isappropriateforthefollowingreasons. Theplaintiff,JonathanVilma(Vilma),filedthissuitindiversitysettingforth elevenclaimsagainstGoodellinhisComplaint:(1)slanderperseinjurytoprofessional reputation;(2)slanderperseinjurytopersonalreputation;(3)slanderperse accusationsofcriminalconduct;(4)slanderbyimplication;(5)slanderreckless disregard/malice;(6)libelperseinjurytoprofessionalreputation;(7)libelperseinjury topersonalreputation;(8)libelperseaccusationsofcriminalconduct;(9)libelby

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implication;(10)libelrecklessdisregard/malice;and(11)intentionalinflictionof emotionaldistress.Rec.Doc.1. InhisComplaint,VilmaidentifiessixstatementsmadebyGoodellas CommissioneroftheNationalFootballLeague(NFL)thatwereslanderousorlibelous andcausedhimextremeemotionaldistress: (1)statementsintheMarch2,2012,NFLpressreleaseallegingthatSaints executives,coaches,anddefensiveplayersviolatedtheBountyRulein2009,2010,and 2011; (2)statementsintheMarch2,2012,reporttothe32NFLClubsthatSaints defensiveplayerspledgedmoneytowardtheBountyProgramandtargetedcertain opposingplayersforinjury; (3)statementsintheMarch21,2012,NFLpressreleasedetailingpunishment imposedontheSaintsandSaintspersonnelandimplicatingunnameddefensiveplayers; (4)statementsintheMarch21,2012,memorandumtothe32NFLClubs concerningthereasonsforthepunishmentofSaintspersonnel; (5)statementsinanApril24,2012,interviewontheNFLNetworkthattheplayers wereinvolvedinaBountyProgram;and (6)theMay2,2012,NFLpressreleasedetailingpunishmentimposedonfour

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players,includingVilma.Rec.Doc.1. Inthismotion,GoodellseeksdismissaloftheComplaintbasedonthreegrounds: (1)theclaimsarepreemptedunderSection301oftheLaborManagementRelationsAct (LMRA),29U.S.C.185;1(2)theyarebarredbythemandatory,bindingdispute resolutionproceduresoftheCollectiveBargainingAgreement(CBA)withtheNFL;2

Section301(a)provides: Suitsforviolationofcontractsbetweenanemployerandalabororganizationrepresenting employeesinanindustryaffectingcommerceasdefinedinthischapter,orbetweenany suchlabororganizations,maybebroughtinanydistrictcourtoftheUnitedStateshaving jurisdictionoftheparties,withoutrespecttotheamountincontroversyorwithoutregard tothecitizenshipoftheparties. Article3,Section2oftheCBAprovides: TheNFLPAagreesthatneitheritnoranyofitsmembers...noranymemberofits bargainingunit,willsue,orsupportfinanciallyoradministratively,orvoluntarilyprovide testimonyoraffidavitin,anysuitagainsttheNFLoranyClubwithrespecttoanyclaim relatingtoanyconductpermittedbythisAgreement,oranytermofthisAgreement...In addition,neithertheNFLPAnoranyofitsmembers...noranymemberofitsbargaining unitwillsueorsupportfinanciallyoradministrativelyanysuitagainsttheNFLorany ClubrelatingtotheprovisionsoftheConstitutionandBylawsoftheNFLRec.Doc.238 at23. Article43,Section1oftheCBAprovides: Anydispute(hereinafterreferredtoasagrievance)arisingaftertheexecutionofthis Agreementandinvolvingtheinterpretationof,applicationof,orcompliancewith,any provisionofthisAgreement,theNFLPlayerContract,thePracticeSquadPlayerContract, oranyapplicableprovisionoftheNFLConstitutionandBylawsorNFLRulespertaining tothetermsandconditionsofemploymentofNFLplayerswillberesolvedexclusivelyin accordancewiththeproceduresetforthinthisArticle,exceptwhereveranothermethodof disputeresolutionissetforthelsewhereinthisAgreement.Rec.Doc.238at203.
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and(3)theyareinadequatelypled.Alternatively,GoodellarguesthattheComplaint shouldbestruckunderLa.CodeCiv.P.art.971.Theplaintiffopposesthemotion. FederalRuleofCivilProcedure12(b)(6)providesfordismissalifaplaintifffails tostateaclaimuponwhichreliefcanbegranted.FED.R.CIV.P.12(b)(6).AstheSupreme CourtheldinBellAtlanticCorp.v.Twombly,550U.S.544(2009),theRule8pleading standarddoesnotrequiredetailedfactualallegations,butitdoesdemandmorethan labelsandconclusionsandaformulaicrecitationoftheelementsof[the]causeof action.Id.at555(citingPapasanv.Allain,478U.S.265,286(1986)).Ifthefactual allegationsareinsufficienttoriseabovethespeculativelevel,orifitisapparentfromthe faceofthecomplaintthatthereisaninsuperablebartorelief,theclaimmustbe dismissed.Id.at555;Jonesv.Bock,549U.S.199,215(2007);Carbev.Lappin,492F.3d325, 328&n.9(5thCir.2007). WhenconsideringaRule12(b)(6)motion,acourtmustacceptallreasonable

Article46,Section1oftheCBAprovides: NotwithstandinganythingstatedinArticle43: (a)Alldisputes...involvingactiontakenagainstaplayerbytheCommissionerfor conductdetrimentaltotheintegrityof,orpublicconfidencein,thegameofprofessional football,willbeprocessedexclusivelyasfollows:theCommissionerwillpromptlysend writtennoticeofhisactiontotheplayer,withacopytotheNFLPA.Withinthree(3) businessdaysfollowingsuchwrittennotification,theplayeraffectedthereby,orthe NFLPAwiththeplayersapproval,mayappealinwritingtotheCommissioner.Rec.Doc. 238at220.

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inferencesinfavoroftheplaintiff.Lormandv.U.S.Unwired,Inc.,565F.3d228,23233(5th Cir.2009).Acourtmayconsiderthecontentsofthepleadings,includingattachments thereto,aswellasthedocumentsattachedtothemotiontodismissthatarereferredtoin plaintiffscomplaintandarecentraltohisclaims.Morganv.Swanson,659F.3d359,367 (5thCir.2011);Dorseyv.PortfolioEquities,Inc.,540F.3d333,338(5thCir.2008). VilmaisaNewOrleansSaintsfootballplayerwhosetermsandconditionsof employmentaregovernedbytheNFLPlayerContract3andbytheCBAnegotiated betweenthepreviouslydefinedNFLandtheNFLPlayersAssociation(NFLPA),along withtheNFLConstitutionandBylaws4incorporatedintotheCBA.Thereisalsono


Paragraph15ofthestandardNFLPlayerContractprovides: PlayerrecognizesthedetrimenttotheLeagueandprofessionalfootballthatwouldresult fromimpairmentofpublicconfidenceinthehonestandorderlyconductofNFLgamesor theintegrityandgoodcharacterofNFLplayers.Playerthereforacknowledgeshis awarenessthatifhe...isguiltyofany...formofconductreasonablejudgedbytheLeague CommissionertobedetrimentaltotheLeagueorprofessionalfootball,theCommissioner willhavetheright,...tosuspendPlayerforaperiodcertainorindefinitely.Rec.Doc.238 at27778. ArticleVIIIoftheConstitutionandBylawsprovidestheCommissionerwith authoritythatincludes:full,complete,andfinaljurisdictionandauthoritytoarbitrate... [a]nydisputeinvolving...players...thatintheopinionoftheCommissionerconstitutes conductdetrimentaltothebestinterestsoftheLeagueorprofessionalfootball;the completeauthoritytosuspendaplayerafterdecidingthattheplayerhaseitherviolated theConstitutionorBylawsoftheLeagueorhasbeenorisguiltyofconductdetrimentalto thewelfareoftheLeagueorprofessionalfootball...;tointerpretandfromtimetotime establishpolicyandprocedureinrespecttotheprovisionsoftheConstitutionandBylaws andanyenforcementthereof;andtheauthoritytoestablishandexclusivelycontrola
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disputethatGoodellissuedasCommissioneroftheNFL.Rec.Doc.1at1. Preliminarily,Vilmaarguesinhisoppositionthat[t]hiscasehasnothingtodo withtheNFLsdisciplineofVilmabecauseGoodellsstatementswerenotmadewithin theconfinesofanyforumorprocedurecreatedbytheNFLNFLPACBAnorweretheya partofanydutiesorresponsibilitiesoftheCommissionersoffice.Rec.Doc.72at5. VilmamaintainsthatGoodellisresponsiblefortheallegedlyoffendingstatementsin hisindividualcapacity.Id.TheCourtrejectsVilmasargument,whichiscontradicted byhisownComplaint.Rec.Doc.1.TheCourtfindsthatalloftheallegedlyoffensive statementsweremadebyGoodellasCommissioneroftheNFLinconjunctionwiththe investigationresultinginthenowwellknowndisciplineagainstVilmaandothers associatedwiththeSaints.Id.VilmasComplainthasnotbeenamendedsincetheMay 17,2012,filingofthissuit,althoughhedidrecentlyacceptareviseddisciplinethatstill foundhehadengagedinconductdetrimentaltothegameoffootball,thoughitimposed nosuspensionorfine.Rec.Docs.169,17071,174.

Preemption ThedefendantsargumentthatallofVilmasdefamationandintentionalinfliction

PublicRelationsDepartmentfortheLeague.Rec.Doc.239at2425.

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ofemotionaldistressclaimsarepreemptedissupportedbyampleFifthCircuitcaselaw. Generally,claimsthatrequiretheinterpretationofacollectivebargainingagreementare preemptedbytheLMRA.Reecev.HoustonLighting&PowerCo.,79F.3d485,487(5thCir. 1996);Smithv.HoustonOilers,87F.3d717,718719(5thCir.1996);Staffordv.TrueSemper Sports,123F.3d291,296(5th5thCir.1997);Bagbyv.GeneralMotorsCorp.,976F.2d919,921 (5thCir.1992);Strachanv.UnionOilCo.,768F.2d703(5thCir.1985). Vilmaarguesinoppositionthatthestatelawclaimsdonotrequireananalysisof thetermsofaCBA.Rec.Doc.72at12.Hefocusesonthefactthatanumberofthe allegedlydefamatorystatementsweremadepriortoVilmahimselfbeingformally discliplined.Rec.Doc.72at17.TheCourtdisagreeswithVilmascharacterizationand argumentforthefollowingreasons.Goodellsdisclipline,imposedfirstuponthe nonplayerstaffoftheSaintsandultimatelyuponVilma,wasbaseduponthesame underlyinginvestigationintothesocalledBountygateallegations.Goodells discipline,againstbothplayersandstaff,resultedfromthatinvestigation,whichlikewise isbasedupontheCBAandrelateddocuments.Vilmasclaimsfordefamationand intentionalinflictionofemotionaldistresshavetobeevaluatedthroughthelensofwhat theCBAallowsGoodelltodo.Reece,79F.3dat48788. Adefamationclaimcannotsurviveamotiontodismisswhenitarisesoutofan

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arbitrationinvolvingdiscipline.Bagbyv.GeneralMotorsCorp.,976F.2d919,921(5thCir. 1992);Weberv.LockheedMartinCorp.,2001WL274518,at*7(E.D.La.2001)(notingthat defamationclaimsaretypicallypreemptedwhentheclaimisabouttheemployees conductinadisciplinaryactionunderacollectivebargainingagreementorwhenthe allegedconductoccurredinthecontextofanarbitrationproceeding).Vilmarelieson casesinwhichnondefamationclaimswerenotpreempted.Wellsv.GeneralMotorsCorp., 881F.2d166,173(5thCir.1989)(claimsforverbalfraudulentinducement,independent oftheCBA);Jonesv.RoadwayExpress,Inc.,931F.2d1086(5thCir.1991)(retaliatory dischargeclaimdidnotrequireaninterpretationoftheCBA).TheFifthCircuitinBagby notedthatthosecaseswereinapplicableandunpersuasive.Bagby,976F.2dat921,note 7. Here,evenaccordingtotheplaintiffsownComplaint,thedefamationclaimsare directlyrelatedtoGoodellsdecisiontosuspend,thatis,disciplineVilma,pursuanttothe CBAarbitrationprocedure.Moreover,thedefamationclaimsandtheclaimfor intentionalinflictionofemotionaldistresswouldrequireinterpretationofmultiple portionsoftheCBA,notjustthenonsuitprovisioninCBAArt.3,section2,asVilma contends.Assetforthhereinabove,forexample,theCBAauthorizesGoodelltosuspend aplayerforwhatheconsidersconductdetrimentalandalsoauthorizeshimto

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investigateactionsthathesuspectsconstituteconductdetrimental.Vilmasargument thatthestatementsweremadeinGoodellsindividualcapacityisunpersuasiveas GoodellwassuedasCommissioneroftheNFLandallofthestatementsattributedto GoodellweremadeinconnectionwiththeNFLsinvestigationofthe payperperformance/bountyallegations.Therefore,Vilmasclaimsarepreemptedand mustbedismissed.

SufficiencyunderRule12(b)(6) Inaddition,theCourtfindsthatallofVilmasclaimsfailtomeetthe12(b)(6) standardbecauseassertionsofmaliceandofoutrageousconductareinsufficient conclusoryallegations.IntheComplaint,Vilmaallegesperseslanderandlibelonthe groundthatthestatementsinjuredhisprofessionalreputation,orbecausetheyaccused Vilmaofcriminalconduct.Foralldefamationclaims,includingthenonperseclaims, VilmamakestheconclusorystatementthattheGoodellsstatementsweremadewith recklessdisregardoftheirtruthorfalsityand/orwithmalice.Rec.Doc.1at48,54,60, 66,72,78,84,90,96,102.Theonlyfactsheallegesinsupportaresomeversionofthe following:GoodellhadnoreasonablegroundsforbelievingthetruthofhisStatements. Goodellreliedon,atbest,hearsay,circumstantialevidenceandliesinmakingthe

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Statements.Id.at67,73,97,103. Asfortheintentionalinflictionofemotionaldistressclaim,Vilmamakesthe conclusorystatementthatGoodellsStatementsandconductwereextremeand outrageous.Id.at106.Hemakesnofurtherallegationinsupport. Asapublicfigure,VilmahastheburdenofshowingthatGoodellmadethe statementswithactualmaliceunderbothLouisianaandNewYorklaw.Starrv. Boudreaux,978So.2d384,390(La.Ct.App.2007);Peopleexrel.Spitzerv.Grasso,801 N.Y.S.2d584,586(N.Y.App.Div.2005).Vilmaallegesthatthesuspensionandtheappeal weresoprocedurallyflawedthatnoreasonablepersoncouldhavebelievedthe statementsweretrue.However,thestatementsthemselvesindicatethattheywerebased onanextensiveinvestigation.SeeYoungv.Meyer,527So.2d391(La.App.4Cir.1988) (rulingfordefendantwhereallegeddefamatorystatementsweremadeafterinvestigation oftheinformationpriortopublication).WhiletheCourtisextremelydisturbedbythe fundamentallackofdueprocessinGoodellsdenyingtheplayerstheidentitiesofandthe righttoconfronttheiraccusers,thatwassubstantiallyrectifiedlaterintheprocess.So whiletheprocesswasinitiallyprocedurallyflawed,thestatementswereultimatelyfound tohaveenoughsupporttodefeatthedefamationclaims. AsforVilmasclaimforintentionalinflictionofemotionaldistress,theFifth

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Circuithasaffirmeddismissalofsuchaclaimwherethecomplaintonlymadeabare assertionofoutrageousconduct.Stallworthv.SingingRiverHealthSys.,2012WL1192816, at*2(5thCir.2012).Theconductmustbesoegregiousastoshocktheconscience.Jones v.Trump,971F.Supp.783,787788(S.D.N.Y.1997).Here,theclaimmustfailbecause, unlikethedefamationclaims,Vilmadoesnotevenallegefactsbeyondtheconclusory statementthatGoodellsconductwasextremeandoutrageous.Rec.Doc.1at106. EventhoughthismatterhasbeenpendingonlysinceMayofthisyear,itfeelsas protractedandpainfulastheSaintsseasonitself,andcallsforclosure.TheCourt nonethelessbelievesthathadthismatterbeenhandledinalessheavyhandedway,with greaterfairnesstowardtheplayersandthepressurestheyface,thislitigationandthe relatedcaseswouldnothavebeennecessary. Accordingly, ITISORDEREDthatthemotiontodismisspursuanttoRule12(b)(6)filedby RogerGoodellisGRANTED.Rec.Doc.23. NewOrleans,Louisiana,this17thdayofJanuary,2013.

____________________________________ HELENG.BERRIGAN UNITEDSTATESDISTRICTJUDGE

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