NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE,
Monday, June 18, 2012
Hearing held before Commissioner Roger Goodell,
345 Park Avenue, New York, New York, commencing
at 10:12 a.m., before Eileen Mulvenna,
CSR/RMR/CRR, Certified Shorthand Reporter,
Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Realtime
Reporter and Notary Public of the State of New
A P P E A R A N C E S:
WINSTON & STRAWN, LLP
Attorneys for the
200 Park Avenue New York, New York 10166-4192
- BY: JEFFREY KESSLER, ESQ
- JONATHAN AMOONA, ESQ.
- ANGELA A. SMEDLEY, ESQ. email@example.com.
- PETER R. GINSBERG LAW, LLC
Attorneys for Jonathan Vilma 12 East 49th Street, 30th Floor
New York, New York 10017
- BY: PETER R. GINSBERG, ESQ.
- CHRISTOPHER DEUBERT, ESQ. firstname.lastname@example.org
- NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Attorneys for the NFL 345 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10154
- BY: ADOLPHO A. BIRCH, III, ESQ.
- DEBEVOISE & PLIMPTON, LLC
Attorneys for the League 919 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10022
- BY: MARY JOE WHITE, ESQ.
- PHIL FORTINO, ESQ.
- SEAN HECKER, ESQ. email@example.com
- AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD, LLPA
- Attorneys for the League
Robert S. Strauss Building
1333 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20036-1564
- BY: DANIEL L. NASH, ESQ.
- A LS O
- P R E S E N T:
JEFFREY PASH, Executive Vice President
- National Football League
- HEATHER McPHEE, Associate General Counsel NFLPA
- TOM DePASO, NFLPA
- WILL SMITH, Player
- JONATHAN VILMA, Player
- SCOTT FUJITA, Player
- ANTHONY HARGROVE, Player
- JEFFREY MILLER, NFL Security
- JOE HUMMEL, NFL Security
- - Proceedings -
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: Thank you all for coming. I want to be respectful of your time, so we’ll get started quickly here. As you know, the purpose of today’s hearing is to hear from the players. And contrary to the reports and some of the statements, I do want to hear from the players. So I respectfully hope that you will speak up. In order to make this an orderly process, I’m going to ask Jeff Pash, our general counsel, to make sure that he lays out the ground rules here and makes sure that any of the — what I’ll call procedural issues that may be raised he will resolve as we go through this. And as a hearing officer, I’ll listen carefully, but I will also take the opportunity to ask questions because that’s what we are here for.
- MR. PASH: Okay. Thanks, Commissioner. Good morning, everyone. Proceedings – I think many of you have participated in hearings of this type before so you understand the process. And just to outline what we’ll do this morning, because this is the first opportunity that we’ve had to meet with the players, we’ve asked Mary Jo White, who is at the far end of the table, to make a presentation and review for you and your counsel the evidence and summarize what the evidence is that underlies the disciplinary decisions that the Commissioner handed down about six weeks or so ago. And I think many of you know who Mary Jo is, but just briefly, she was retained by our office to assist in the investigation, review the evidence. She’s currently a partner and the chairman of the litigation department in a law firm in New York called Debevoise & Plimpton. And for about a decade, she served as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York where she was in charge of that office and, before that, was also the chief assistant and acting US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York.
- We’ve sent to everyone last week the exhibits and have provided some other material at earlier stages, including the report of the security department and the Commissioner’s Memorandum of Decision in March of this year when discipline was issued regarding coaches, the general manager, and the club, the Saints itself. And we’ve also sent, I think, some material that we got from Mr. Niphon. We’ll just ask to have marked as Exhibit A — I guess, Adolpho, it’s this binder; is that correct?
- MR. KESSLER: Before we actually proceed, I think Peter might want to put a few things on the record, if that’s all
right, as a preliminary matter –
- MR. PASH: Before we proceed to any actual –
- MR. KESSLER: Before we do anything, yes. Before we go to –
- MR. PASH: Okay. I’ll put that aside for a moment, and let me just finish these comments.
- MR. KESSLER: Sure.
- MR. PASH: What we’ll do after Jeffrey and Peter then make their comments is we’ll ask Mary Jo to go through the evidence with you. She’ll be putting things up on the screen. And I’m not quite sure how long her presentation will be, but I would just ask that you let her go
through her presentation, review the evidence with you, and then we’ll give people an opportunity for opening statements, call witnesses, whatever you’d like to do at that point.
- So you wanted to –
- MR. GINSBERG: My name is Peter Ginsberg. I’m here on behalf of Jonathan Vilma. As two preliminary matters, we’ve already set forth in some detail, and I know Mr. Kessler will address after me in detail, the fact that, Commissioner, you do not have jurisdiction to entertain this proceeding. And for all the reasons that we have previously set forth, Commissioner, we don’t believe this is a proper proceeding.
- Second of all, Commissioner, by today’s date, we are making a motion to preclude the introduction or description of any of the supposed evidence that was provided to us under Article 46 of the CBA.
- Your office, Commissioner, was required to have provided us with any evidence or any documents that would be used in today’s proceedings within three calendar days under New York law. And we have case law to support refutably under New York law three calendar days means 72 hours. Today’s proceeding was scheduled for 10 a.m. We were served with these documents at 1:33 p.m. That’s not 72 hours. So pursuant to the CBA and New York law, we are making a motion to preclude the introduction of any evidence or the description of any of the supposed evidence at today’s proceedings.
- I’m handing to the Commissioner and Mr. Pash a letter dated June 18, 2012, an affirmation of Christopher Deubert in support of the motion to preclude.
- Commissioner Goodell, on behalf of Mr. Vilma, I think it’s important for us to address in these proceedings before we close the record. We have been willing to meet with you for months now if you, sir, were prepared to exchange fairly and thoroughly in a process in which we could have a discourse and you, Commissioner, could come to a better understanding of what, in fact, occurred with the New Orleans Saints.
- If you had presented us with a modicum of due process, if you had elicited or evidenced any willingness to share the evidence with us, we were more than prepared to exchange in a full dialog. Instead, Commissioner, you have deprived us of the most fundamental rights. You have provided us with no evidence, either in a timely fashion or otherwise, to support any of the horrific accusations and allegations that you have made about Mr. Vilma. You have been unwilling to exchange in any fair dialog or any fair exchange. You have made serious allegations. And in light of those allegations, in light of what you claim to be important to the NFL and in light of you, sir, your supposed concern for the integrity of this sport and in light of the consequences to Jonathan Vilma, both personally and professionally, we have, as you know, found this process and these proceedings to be shocking and shameful.
- From the very beginning, Mr. Vilma asked you to do two things, Commissioner Goodell. One was to investigate as thoroughly as I could what lay behind your supposed accusations. And the other thing Mr. Vilma asked you to do was to listen to him. Because he was prepared to tell the whole truth about your supposed — about your accusations.
- We have, in fact, engaged in a thorough investigation. It has been stymied in part, sir, because you having issued gag orders to people with evidence, former coaches, people with New Orleans Saints, you have made threats to keep them from talking to us. You have refused to have them even participate in today’s proceedings.
- But, nonetheless, Commissioner Goodell, we have talked to dozens of people, literally dozens of people regarding your allegations. We have spent months gathering information. And we have compared that information to your descriptions, your public descriptions as well as your descriptions that you took pursuant to your authority pursuant to the CBA, and those are two very different things.
- But in comparing what you have accused Mr. Vilma of with the information that we have gathered, we have found the following, Commissioner Goodell:
- First of all, you have distorted publicly and in your submissions the facts. As just a few of the examples, let’s focus on the Ornstein e-mails. In one of the Ornstein e-mails that you have previously described, Mr. Ornstein told you directly, sir, that that e-mail was a joke and had no substance. The other e-mail, Commissioner Goodell, that you had included in this untimely package of information, as Mr. Ornstein told you specifically, related to a Gregg Williams’ charity. It had nothing to do with the bounty program. Yet you have chosen to describe that e-mail as some sort of evidence that Mr. Ornstein was participating in the bounty program. You have still included that e-mail, notwithstanding Mr. Ornstein’s direct statement to you to the contrary, as supposed evidence of this bounty program.
- We have already seen the way you have distorted Anthony Hargrove’s declaration in the media. You have taken words that Gregg Williams used, colorful words like “cart-offs” and “whacks” and “killed ahead,” and have chosen publicly to distort the meaning of those words, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Williams and others had told you that those terms in no way relate to illegal hits or any bounty program; that you have decided, sir, to misrepresent what those words, in fact, mean.
- There is also substantial evidence that both Mike Cerullo and Gregg Williams have retracted directly and affirmatively and without equivocation any claims they have previously made about a bounty program. You have not disclosed to us those retractions. You have certainly not included it in any of your untimely evidence.
- And that, sir, is yet another piece of evidence of your willingness to distort this entire investigation.
- became clear, apparently even to the NFL office, that since no players were identified in that supposed ledger, there was no tying of that ledger in any way to a bounty program.
- You have chosen, after airing it out publicly, not even to include that ledger in the documents you provided in an untimely fashion with regard to this proceeding.
- Sir, we have looked at the objective evidence as well as looked at the Gregg Williams videos as well as spoken to people. And we have looked at the statistics. We have looked at game film. We have looked at penalties. We have concluded, and I think it is irrefutable, that there is nothing objective that can support what you have accused Mr. Vilma of having done publicly.
- Commissioner Goodell, Jonathan Vilma has never participated in a bounty program. He has never put up any money designed to hurt an opposing player. He has never received any money for hurting another player. He has never intended to hurt another player. And he has never in any way provided any incentive for any of his teammates to have hurt another player.
- Commissioner Goodell, what you have done is to make some horrible accusations about Mr. Vilma’s person, about his integrity and about his professionalism. You have imposed a misplaced punishment and, sir, you have cast a shadow not only on Mr. Vilma personally and professionally, but, I dare say, on the NFL and on the office of the Commissioner in engaging in these proceedings.
- There’s just one, and just one, just result in this proceeding, and that is for you to rescind any punishment against Mr. Vilma and to apologize in public for what you have done.
- Thank you. With that, I move toclose the record.
- MR. PASH: Mr. Kessler, do you wantto comment?
- MR. KESSLER: Yes. Jeffrey Kessler appearing on behalf of the National Football League Players Association and also in particular on behalf of Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith.
- The NFLPA and the players that I identified have reluctantly concluded that they will not participate in any proceedings regarding the merits at this hearing today. This was not an easy decision for them because they believe they have been wrongly accused with insufficient evidence; but, for a number of reasons, which I will now go through, which we would like on the record in formal motions, we don’t believe it’s appropriate to proceed with this hearing today.
- First of all, as the Commissioner knows, we have already filed a proceeding contesting the Commissioner’s jurisdiction over this discipline because we believe the discipline is based in this case in significant part on its pay-for-performance aspects, which we believe are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the System Arbitrator pursuant to Articles 14 and 15 of the collective bargaining agreement. We have filed a notice of appeal of System Arbitrator Burbank’s decision to the contrary on that point. We believe it’s not appropriate for the Commissioner to proceed with any discipline in light of that lack of jurisdiction. It’s certainly not appropriate to proceed with this hearing while that appeal is pending, as we believe that there is a reasonable likelihood that the appeal’s panel will reverse the System Arbitrator’s decision on that matter.
- Secondly, we also believe there is no jurisdiction because, to the extent that discipline was based on matters concerning unsportsmanlike conduct that was being allegedly induced on the playing field, that that jurisdiction would be covered under Article 46, Section 1(b), not Section 1(a), and that means the appropriate hearing should be before the hearing officer, such as Mr. Shell, and not before Commissioner Goodell on either of these matters.
- The bottom line is, this type of behavior is not within the scope that the NFLPA believes it agreed to to be subject to Commissioner review. We believe this is within the scope and was bargained for for a neutral arbitrator review, either before System Arbitrator Burbank or before the hearing officers pursuant to Article 46. As a result, we also are making a formal motion at this time for the Commissioner to recuse himself from these proceedings. And the reason for that is, since the union has not agreed to the Commissioner hearing these matters and because the Commissioner has publicly appeared on television and in other fora defending the discipline prior to this arbitrable hearing, we don’t believe under the governing law that he can serve as an arbitrator without the appearance of bias rendering the proceedings a nullity.
- To prevent that from happening, we would ask that the Commissioner step down, to the extent that these proceedings continue, as the decision-maker and that a neutral decision-maker be appointed in his place. The next point is, apart from the jurisdiction and appearance for bias issues, we do not believe these proceedings have afforded the essence of the CBA requirements for industrial due process and a fair hearing.
- The reason for this is that both Article 46 and the player contract, paragraph 15 clearly provide for a right to a hearing with counsel present. And we believe the essence of that hearing contains certain matters that are being denied to the players here.
- In particular, we’re not being given the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the actual witnesses who have evidence on this. We understand that we’re going to hear from security people who interviewed others, or we might be hearing a presentation from counsel, outside counsel for the NFL, we learned, but we’re not going to have a right to confront the witnesses, the coaches, who we’ve asked for, and we’re not being given the right to look at all of the evidence that was reviewed by even the security officials in preparing the report, and we’re not being given the right to be given access to what might be exculpatory evidence regarding this.
- We have asked in prior correspondence for the following:
- On June 11, we sent a letter asking for the following witnesses to be present: Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt, Mickey Loomis, Blake Williams, Michael Cerullo, Joe Hummel and Jeff Miller.
- I believe out of that group, the only one I — the only two I understood are here today are Mr. Hummel and Mr. Miller. I believe that’s correct. And they only would have hearsay knowledge based on their investigations, as they obviously are not participants in any of the alleged events.
- The failure to produce the other coaches, who we believe, under the direction of the NFL, could be compelled to be here, we believe denies the players the right to confront anything other than hearsay evidence without any opportunity to cross-examine the people who could actually respond to cross-examination, since Mr. Hummel and Mr. Miller would not be capable of responding other than reporting on whatever hearsay they have gathered from others.
- Second, in that same letter, we asked for copies of all evidence that is relevant. 18,000 documents have been identified by the NFL in their security report. We’ve been given less than 200. We assume that much of that evidence may be helpful to the players, yet we have not been given access to any of it.
- We have no idea how much of that was given to Commissioner Goodell in making his initial disciplinary record about this. He was certainly given the security report, which purports to be based on those 18,000 documents. We believe we’re entitled to get access to that.
- We also believe we’re entitled to any exculpatory information that might be there. In that regard, in a letter dated June 14, 2012, the NFLPA asked for materials provided from Mr. Duke Niphon, who was interviewed by the NFL in connection with this matter.
- We understand Mr. Niphon has provided exculpatory information, and we do not believe all that information, at least according to Mr. Niphon, that was given to the NFL has been turned over to us despite our request.
- We have also asked in that same letter for the notes from the witness interviews that were done. We have a few transcribed notes. We don’t know how those were selected, but certainly not all the notes that were done. And we don’t know who made those notes, so we don’t understand that. But we have no way of doing this.
- We also assume all the coaches had notes taken of their interviews. To the extent they were done, none of those have been produced despite our request. We don’t know if there was a transcript of a hearing, of an appeal hearing that the coaches went to, Mr. Payton and others. That has not been produced to us.
- Basically, other than the less than 200 documents, we have not received anything else from the NFL that decides on that.
- We join in the motion filed by Mr. Vilma regarding the failure to produce, but the little that was produced, within 72 hours, and note that we asked for an adjournment of this hearing for a scant three days and were denied that request as well despite the fact that the documents were provided late.
- We also would note that to the extent that counsel for the NFL is going to make some presentation based on evidence that we’ve not been given, we will move to preclude that presentation because, under the CBA, that should be provided as well.
- Finally, I would note that despite the fact that the NFL reports recognize that the actions here were a result of a program that was — alleged program that was designed by Coach Williams, was directed by Coach Williams, was known to the senior executives of the team and was at best condoned, if not actually promoted, by those senior executives, that the idea of imposing any discipline on employees who simply followed what their supervisors directed them to do is also contrary to established legal principles, and that we don’t see any recognition of that in terms of the discipline that’s been imposed.
- In that regard, I would refer the NFL to Elkouri & Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, and in particular to look at pages 1,000 to 1,001 and some of the case law that is cited in Elkouri, and what you will find is that even when there is only prior tolerance or prior knowledge or prior approval or failure to supervise, it is routinely decided that employees should not bear the disciplinary responsibility.
- Because if their employer is directing them to do something, it ill behooves the employer to punish them for what someone else has done. And in your report on the team and the managers, you already found that this was designed and directed there.
- So we believe that for that reason as well, the discipline is legally defective.
- For all those reasons, it is our reluctant conclusion that in order to preserve all of our rights and our ability to challenge this and also in order — because we don’t believe this proceeding should proceed fairly, that we will not be able to participate in the merits portion
of the hearing, which is why we wanted to make these comments at the very outset.
- feel the need to make this record at the outset.
- So thank you very much.
- Now, I guess you should proceed as you intended to.
- MR. PASH: Do either Adolpho or Dan Nash, either one of you want to make any comment in response to what either Mr. Ginsberg or Mr. Kessler have said?
- MR. NASH: I have a question. I guess the question would be, when you say you’re not participating in the merits, does that mean you’re going to leave?
- MR. KESSLER: We’ll sit here, but we’re not going to participate in any way. We won’t ask any questions. We’re not going to do any cross-examination. We’re not going to present any evidence or witnesses of our own.
- We’re doing what we believe is consistent with preserving all of our jurisdictional and procedural things without accepting the validity of participating in the merits process.
- MR. GINSBERG: Mr. Kessler speaks for me as well.
- MR. BIRCH: Let me address one technical point.
- Subsequent to sending over the Niphon information, we were able to find that he had submitted a declaration through one of the coaches at the hearing. And that declaration, we have it, we’re happy to give you copies, it actually included the material that was — that was sent, but I sent over two pages and summarized that same point.
- So we found that — because it was not part of anything that security did, it was ultimately found through the appeal of Coach Vitt, so the fact is that it is succinct.
MR. KESSLER: Thank you. We appreciate that. We’ll take whatever you want to give us.
MR. BIRCH: (Handing documents to Mr. Kessler.)
MR. PASH: Did you have anything else?
MR. BIRCH: With respect to the question regarding whether Article 46 1(a) or (b) applies, I believe that matter was resolved and the Commissioner was determined to have authority to hear the appeals on this case under Article 46.
I believe that’s all I have I would say as to direct response.
MR. PASH: I think what we’ll do now, in deference to the concern that Mr. Ginsberg raised and was echoed by Mr. Kessler, is we’ll adjourn the hearing, and we will reconvene at 1:45 p.m.
MR. GINSBERG: Mr. Pash, I can’t do it at 1:45 today. We’re scheduled for today at 10 o’clock.
- MR. PASH: Well, you can preserve your objection to the delivery of the documents, and we’ll meet it and make sure you have the full 72 hours that you have said you’re entitled to. We’ll respect your position. We’re trying to meet it.
- If you want to waive your objection to the delivery of the documents at 1:33 p.m., we’ll proceed now. We’re trying to satisfy and trying to address your position.
- MR. GINSBERG: Mr. Pash, you had a legal obligation to have produced these documents by 10 a.m. on Friday morning. You, sir, have abrogated that responsibility. We’re not prepared to adjourn these proceedings.
- This is the time scheduled. You had a legal obligation to satisfy what the NFL was legally obligated to satisfy. No documents, no evidence was produced in a timely fashion.
- MR. PASH: Mr. Ginsberg –
- MR. BIRCH: There is one other point I wanted to raise, was that, while you — while Mr. Ginsberg has suggested that New York law applies as to the calculation of the time period, we operate under the collective bargaining agreement.
- Under that agreement, there’s absolutely no basis to suggest even that the provision of those documents at 1:45 on the date specified and indeed on the date that the Players Association requested those documents is in any way — there’s not a single case precedent or appeal that would even remotely suggest that that is a equirement that we face.
- MR. PASH: And, again, we’re prepared to adjourn the hearing until 1:45 to ensure that, even if the position that’s been articulated is legally appropriate, that there’s a full 72 hours.
- If you’re saying that you’re unavailable and you would like us to proceed with the appeal now, we’ll do so; but I want to make it clear that we’re prepared to adjourn until that time to make sure that the full 72 hours that you have said is required would be available.
- MR. GINSBERG: Mr. Pash, I think my position is clear. Anything that was not produced by 10 a.m. Friday cannot be used in this hearing, nor can there be any description or illusion to anything that was not produced within the 72 hours.
- (Discussion held off the record.)
- MR. PASH: We’ll go back on the record. With respect to the pending motion that has been offered on behalf of Mr. Vilma, that motion will be denied because his collective bargaining agreement has never imposed a strict 72-hour rule. It’s operated along these lines for quite some time, and that there are no decisions of arbitrators or other hearing officers that would impose that requirement.
- However, as an accommodation, we will adjourn the hearing until 1:45 p.m. and resume at that time. That will satisfy the 72-hour requirement if, in fact, it exists.
- And I would simply note that we said there would be a beginning at 10 o’clock, but we didn’t say anything about finishing at noon or one or two or any other particular time. And we had set aside considerable time today in order to have this hearing and allow all four players an opportunity to make their points to the Commissioner.
- We didn’t know if you were going to be bringing in witnesses. We didn’t know what evidence you might be bringing in. So we had set aside a considerable amount of time to allow for the hearing today.
- And we’re going to go ahead and adjourn till 1:45, and we will resume the hearing at that point, with Mrs. White’s summary of the evidence.
- MR. GINSBERG: Mr. Pash, our position regarding the legality of the appropriateness of the adjournment I believe is clear.
- Just as a point of observation, my understanding, Mr. Pash, is that you are here, sir, as an adviser to the Commissioner. The idea that we had adjournment to discuss the procedural infirmity in the proceedings and then, as the Commissioner’s adviser, to then confer with the witnesses who are being presented, I respectfully submit that that presents additional evidence of the bias in these proceedings that Mr. Kessler and I did address.
- The Commissioner, you purportedly are here as neutral arbitrators. And I think that is procedurally inappropriate.
- So I’d like the record also to reflect that that’s how this matter was resolved, by you conferring with the witnesses who you’re representing for this to present evidence in the proceeding.
- MR. PASH: Well, I conferred with people who have been identified and I believe your co-counsel referred to as our outside counsel. So I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate in that at all; but this will not be the first thing that you and I disagree on, Mr. Ginsberg.
- Okay. So we’re adjourned until 1:45.
- (Hearing adjourned at 10:53 a.m.)
- A FT E R N O O N S E S S I O N
- (1:25 p.m.)
MR. PASH: Okay. We’ll resume.
And for the record, everyone who was here for the morning session is still here, other than I think Mr. Ginsberg and Mr. Vilma. I think everyone else who was here in the morning is still here.
- MR. KESSLER: I think that’s correct. And I guess, Jeff, we’d like, for the record, to rule one way or the other on the request of the recusal before proceeding.
- MR. PASH: Actually –
- MR. BIRCH: Actually, before that, it does look like some people from
Mr. Ginsberg’s office are still here.
- MR. DEUBERT: Correct.
- MR. BIRCH: In what capacity are you still here?
- MR. DEUBERT: We’re here simply to observe.
- MR. PASH: I think with respect to the pending motion, that we’re going to take those motions under submission and make a ruling on them at a later time.
- MR. KESSLER: If you want any briefing on the recusal issue, let us know. So we can submit something at your discretion or whatever you require, we’ll give you.
- MR. PASH: Okay. Before we begin, I just confirm that positions are where they were.
- Is there anything that, Mr. Kessler, you would like to say on behalf of the players your office is representing or Mr. Ginsberg’s office would like to say on behalf of Mr. Vilma at this time, or are you adhering to the points you articulated prior to the adjournment?
- MR. KESSLER: We are adhering to the points we articulated — I assume for the League players and the union that I represent, we are adhering to the points that we articulated beforehand.
- And going forward, we will listen to whatever the League is going to present, but we do not intend to participate at all in the merits. If there are other procedural objections we have, we’ll raise them while we’re here; but otherwise, that would be the only point I will make.
- I guess I would ask, just for our own purposes, to know what the League intends to present today. We understand this will be a presentation by your outside counsel. I don’t know if you intend to put on any witnesses or what your day is like, just so we know.
- MR. PASH: I think we’re going to go ahead and give that presentation, but I don’t believe that any live testimony is going to be had.
- MR. KESSLER: Okay. Good.
- MR. PASH: And then I appreciate, as you said, you’re just here observing, but on behalf of Mr. Vilma, is there anything that you would like to put on the record?
- MR. DEUBERT: We believe the record for Mr. Vilma is closed. And as Mr. Kessler said, we will not participate in any of the merits.
- MR. PASH: Then as we said earlier, we’re going to ask Mary Jo White to give you a presentation reviewing the evidence that underlies the disciplinary decision that the Commissioner made. nAnd so I will turn the floor over to Mary Jo at this time.
- MS. WHITE: Thanks, Jeff.
- Let me just say at the outset that the League has previously disclosed all of the exhibits that we’re going to be referencing in this summary that I give today, just so you’re aware of that at the outset.
- I think we probably should begin, for record purposes — I don’t think we got to that this morning — and ask the reporter to mark as NFL Exhibit A a collection containing the exhibits provided previously to the players and their representatives.
- The individual exhibits within this NFL Exhibit A are marked 1 through 16 to correspond to what you were given previously.
- (NFL Exhibit A, Binder of Exhibits 1 through 16, marked for identification.)
- MS. WHITE: We’re also going to ask that the correspondence binder be marked as Exhibit B, and those individual items are numbered 1 through 13. And we have copies which we’ll distribute to everybody now.
- (NFL Exhibit B, Binder of Correspondence Exhibits 1 through 13, marked for identification.)
- MS. WHITE: Sitting to my right is Jeffrey Miller, the League’s vice president and chief security officer. What he and I — and Jeff, I should say, really supervised the NFL’s investigation and conducted large parts of it. And what he and I will be doing today in part is putting the evidence, in those exhibits you’ve been provided with, in context, with descriptions of firsthand accounts provided to NFL investigators by eyewitnesses to the conduct that is the basis for the
- And as just an aid to really follow this summary, we’re going to be projecting some slides on the screen that will track our summary.
- So I guess with that, Jeff, I would just ask you to give us an overview of the NFL security’s investigation into this matter.
- MR. MILLER: Thanks, Mary Jo.
- Our investigation began in early 2010 when Vikings head coach, Brad Childress, reported on January 26, 2010, that one of his players had told him the previous day that the Saints defense placed a $10,000 bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC championship game played on January 24, 2010, and on Kurt Warner during the preceding week’s divisional playoff game on January 16, 2010.
- The NFL immediately launched an investigation interviewing several persons believed to have knowledge, including former Saints player Anthony Hargrove, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt.
- At that time, all denied knowledge of an alleged bounty on Brett Favre or any bounty on any other player or any pay-for-performance/bounty program, and the investigation was discontinued due to a lack of evidence.
- Subsequently, in November 2011, a knowledgable source provided us with a firsthand account of a pay-for-performance/bounty program operated by the New Orleans Saints defense. He also provided the League with corroborating evidence and documents.
- In the course of our investigation, we spoke to a number of witnesses who gave accounts that confirmed that the New Orleans Saints defense operated a pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- These witnesses included former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams; assistant head coach Joe Vitt; Michael Ornstein, a nonplayer who’s often present in the Saints facility and locker room and participated in some of the relevant conduct.
- They also included other sources associated with the New Orleans Saints with firsthand knowledge. All of these witnesses voluntarily cooperated with the investigation and, given their positions with and/or relationships to the team, each had firsthand knowledge of the events about which they provided information.
- MS. WHITE: Let me interject for a second here.
- In order to safeguard their identities, some sources will not be referred to today by name, but generally will be identified by their function and/ortheir relationship to the New Orleans Saints.
- MR. MILLER: In addition to speaking to these witnesses, we also, with the consent of the New Orleans Saints, retrieved numerous relevant documents from the New Orleans Saints’ computer system. These documents, some of which we will review today, provide evidence consistent with and corroborate the statements made by the witnesses.
- MS. WHITE: These again are exhibits you’ve been previously provided, and they are now part of NFL Exhibit A.
- MR. MILLER: In connection with the investigation, we retained an outside computer forensic firm to analyze the electronic documents we collected from the Saints’ computer system, as well as certain other electronic documents provided to us.
- With respect to each of the electronic documents used today and previously relied upon by the Commissioner, the forensic firm verified that the documents were, in fact, created contemporaneously using the New Orleans Saints’ computer system.
- Based on the witness’ demeanor, the level of detail of their accounts, and the . consistency of the witness accounts with each other and with the contemporaneous documents, we were able to reach factual conclusions in which we have a high degree of confidence.
- MS. WHITE: Mr. Miller, can you tell us very briefly what your own background is and give us some indication of how many witness interviews you’ve conducted.
- MR. MILLER: Prior to coming to the NFL, I served in law enforcement with the Pennsylvania State Police from 1984 through 2008. During those years, I held every rank in the department, including serving as commissioner from 2003 through 2008.
- Over the course of my career, I conducted hundreds, if not thousands, of witness interviews related to criminal offenses, such as narcotics offenses, crimes against persons, death investigations and internal affairs matters, to name a few.
- MS. WHITE: Thank you.
- Before getting into the details of the evidence, I’d just like to summarize up front the key factual findings of the NFL’s investigation. And the slide that’s on the board now summarizes the major conclusions of the NFL’s investigation. And for the record, let me just read it.
- The New Orleans Saints defense established a pay-for-performance/bounty program. Coaches and players, including Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita, participated in that program. The program was active for 2009, 2010 and 2011, those NFL seasons. The program included offering significant financial rewards to players for hits risking injury and hits resulting in injuries.
- Witness statements evidence that during the 2009 playoffs, significant financial bounties were specifically offered on opposing quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre. Contemporaneous documentation, which we’ll get into, corroborates the bounty on Brett Favre.
- During a 2010 NFL investigation, the interviewed New Orleans Saints personnel falsely denied knowledge of any bounty or pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- As was mentioned I think by Mr. Pash earlier, I was asked to review the evidence and findings of the NFL’s investigation. As an initial matter, prior to the Commissioner’s decision, I found that there was overwhelming evidence that members of the Saints defense participated in a pay-for-performance/bounty program during 2009, 2010 and the 2011 NFL seasons.
- Additionally, consistent evidence has also emerged since the Commissioner ssued his decisions. As recently as about a week ago, for example, admissions by New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Shanle that the program existed were published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. A copy of that article was produced to you previously as Exhibit 16.
- It’s clear, from contemporaneous documents and evidence reviewed by NFLinvestigators, including, for example, the evidence in Exhibits 5 and 6 previously produced to you, that Mr. Shanle was also a participant in the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- During the investigation, multiple independent sources with firsthand knowledge, including Mr. Williams, provided NFL investigators with a description of how the program worked. And documents obtained in the NFL’s investigation corroborated those accounts.
- Gregg Williams acknowledged to NFL investigators that when he came to the New Orleans Saints in 2009, he decided to implement a pay-for-performance/bounty program for members of the defensive unit.
- He also acknowledged that the program was run for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
- He further acknowledged that the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program in and of itself constituted a non-player-specific bounty program in that the Saints players were rewarded monetarily for on-field hits that resulted in an opposing player being knocked out of the game because of an injury.
- He also stated that the program violated NFL policies and that he was rolling the dice with players’ safety and that someone could have been maimed.
- Mr. Vitt also acknowledged the existence of the program in an interview with NFL investigators, stating that Mr. Williams introduced the program during a team meeting in 2009.
- According to Mr. Vitt, Mr. Williams told the defensive players that the program would reward on-field performance, including big hits such as whacks, cart-offs and knockouts. This description is consistent with that given by Mr. Williams to the NFL investigators.
- Mr. Miller, let me turn to you for a second for a question.
- Did Coach Williams talk about the role of any particular players in helping him establish the program we’ve been talking about?
- MR. MILLER: Coach Williams said that before he brought the program to the entire defense, he first brought in his cocaptains on defense, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, and he ran his idea for the program past them first.
- MS. WHITE: According to Gregg Williams, the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program was a voluntary program, meaning that players could opt not to participate in it. Mr. Vitt said the same to NFL investigators.
- Mr. Williams further explained that the program was initially funded by pledges from himself, Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, certain other players and Mike Ornstein, an individual with close ties to the New Orleans Saints organization who was given access to team meetings.
- The seeding funds were put into a kitty, which was further funded by dues paid by participating players in the amount of a hundred dollars per game. Mr. Williams also informed NFL investigators that he, Mr. Vilma and Mr. Smith each put a thousand dollars into the pay-for-performance/bounty kitty at the beginning of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
- In addition to the seed money and dues, fines were assessed on participating players for poor game performance and were deposited into the kitty. For example, players were fined if they missed an opportunity for a big play, MOBP. You’ll see that referenced in some of the exhibits you’ve already seen and that we’ll be talking about today. Also fined for committing a mental error, referred to as ME, or showing a lack of hustle on the field, referred to as LOHF [ph.]
- Payouts which were to be increased during the playoffs could be earned for a variety of different kind of plays, including potentially injury-risking or injury-causing plays.
- Gregg Williams assigned monetary values to certain plays on the field. This slide that you see on the screen summarizes the basic structure of the program, including the inflows of funds into the program and the outflows.
- As you can see, players earned payouts from the pay-for-performance/bounty und based on the program’s terms. For example, players could obtain payments of $200 for a fumble recovery, which you see on the slide. The program also rewarded players for other plays that posed a risk of injury to opposing players or actually injured them.
- For example, players could be rewarded with a thousand dollars for a art-off, we talked about that before; $1500 for a knockout; or $200 for a whack or smack, which were understood to be particularly explosive hits.
- Coach Williams and other witnesses also recalled that payout amounts were to be increased during the playoffs. For example, Mr. Williams recalled that cart-offs were valued at $2,000 during playoff games.
- As mentioned, the program rewarded players for potentially injury-risking plays such as explosive hits called smacks or whacks. The program also provided for rewards for injury-producing plays such as cart-offs, hits that resulted in a player temporarily leaving the game because of an injury; and for knockouts, hits that resulted in a player leaving the game for the duration of the game because of an injury.
- Numerous contemporaneous documents corroborate these facts, and I thought I would now just go through some of those examples.
- This slide, which is Exhibit 1 previously produced to the players and their representatives, depicts contemporaneous handwritten notes taken for the 2009 season by a member of the New Orleans Saints defensive coaching staff indicating the amount of seed money that certain players, including Mr. Vilma and Mr. Smith, agreed to pay into the kitty.
- And as you’ll see on the slide, $2,000 for Mr. Vilma; 1500 for Mr. Smith; and at the bottom before the total 5,000 for Mr. Ornstein.
- It also reflects a pledge in the right — upper right-hand corner by Mr. Fujita to pay $500 to members of the defensive line, that’s the “DL” on the slide, for sacks and forced fumbles. That’s the “FF” there.
- A question has been raised I think in some of the correspondence that was exchanged on Friday as to whether the NFL is in possession of handwritten versions of these notes and others provided to you in typed form. The answer is yes. They have been produced in typed form, again to safeguard the identities of sources.
- Part of the documentary evidence collected by NFL investigators was this e-mail on the next slide, which is on the screen, dated October 12, 2009, from Mike Ornstein to Gregg Williams. And this is excerpted from Exhibit 2 previously provided. It corroborates the amount of seed money Mr. Ornstein agreed to contribute to the pool for the 2009 season.
- The e-mail, which is recovered from the Saints’ computer system, indicates that Mr. Ornstein had paid $1500 to Mr. Williams, with 3500 total still owed.
- The pledged amount total — the pledged amounts total $5,000, exactly the amount of the handwritten — that the handwritten notes indicate he pledged as seed money for the pay-for-performance/bounty kitty. And that’s reflected on Slide 7, which we’ve just gone back to for a second.
- The next document, which is part of Exhibit 3 previously provided to you, was also recovered from the Saints’ computer system. It’s a PowerPoint slide dated November 12, 2009. As you see, it is a slide on green background with dollar signs also in the background. That is how each of the slides like this were recovered from the New Orleans Saints’ computer system.
- Witnesses, including Mr. Williams and another source from the New Orleans Saints defensive coaching staff, have said that PowerPoint slides such as this were shown during defensive squad meetings each week.
- November 12, 2009, just for some context, was a few days after the Saints’ 30 to 20 win over the Carolina Panthers on November 8, 2009, and prior to the team’s Week 10 game against the St. Louis Rams on November 15, 2009.
- You’ll see the reference at the bottom of the slide, “We need Rams dues by Friday.”
- The slide shows both game fees that were assessed against two players based on errors in the game against the Panthers and remind certain players of the weekly dues, the hundred dollars per game, they still owed to the kitty for past games.
- The New York Giants, Miami and Atlanta games, which are also you can see referenced on this slide, already had been played in the three weeks prior to the Carolina game.
- Next is another of these PowerPoint slides recovered from the Saints’ computer system. This one is included in Exhibit 4 previously provided to you. The electronic file is dated October 29, 2009, a few days after the Saints play the Miami Dolphins on October 25, 2009, and a few weeks before the Week 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
- It shows fees assessed against particular players for the Miami game, as well as for two prior games against the New York Jets and New York Giants. You can see that the fines were assessed for penalties, mental errors, that’s that “ME”; missed opportunities for big plays, that’s “MOBP”; and LOHFs, which is again entirely consistent with the witness’ statements about how the program worked.
- You see, for example, on this particular slide that Mr. Smith is shown to owe $400 from the New York Giants and New York Jets games and that Mr. Hargrove was assessed $400 for two LOHFs and a mental error in the Miami game.
- This next slide shows additional evidence recovered again from the Saints’ computer system. It’s an excerpt from Exhibit 5 previously produced to you. It is a ledger relating to a game against the New York Giants, which was played on October 18, 2009. That’s Week 6 of the season.
- The forensic review showed that the document itself was last modified on October 20, 2009. The notes indicate that one player, Roman Harper, you see that in Item 1, was to receive a thousand dollars for a cart-off. And, again, that’s a play resulting in an opposing player leaving the field due to injury and missing at least one play.
- The game film for that game reflects that New York Giants running back Raymond Jacobs was tackled by Harper in the second quarter and left the field with a shoulder iinjury.
- The ledger also shows, in Item 2, that Mr. Vilma was credited with $200 for a whack, an explosive hit, although he also, as the ledger shows, owed more money than that to the kitty for mental errors and a penalty.
- Item 7 on this ledger shows that Mr. Smith was assessed a $200 fee for a mental error in that game.
- The next slide shows a portion of a similar electronic document provided by a member of the New Orleans Saints coaching staff and previously produced to you in full, this is an excerpt, as Exhibit 6, again which is a ledger of fees assessed and payouts owed for the Week 7 October 25, 2009, game against the Miami Dolphins.
- The forensics review showed that this document was created on the Saints’ computer system and last modified on October 31, 2009.
- The notes show that four members of the defensive team were to receive payouts, in part for one or more whacks. If you look at Item 7 on this document, you see that Jonathan Vilma was one such player credited with two whacks, $200 each. After deducting $200 for a mental error, this document shows that Mr. Vilma was owed a $200 payout.
- Also in Item 3, this document shows money owed to and fees owed by Mr. Hargrove in the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- At least three witnesses interviewed by NFL security, all from the New Orleans Saints defensive coaching staff and including Coach Williams, stated that they personally participated in the process of paying players owed rewards under the pay-for-performance/bounty program after each game that the Saints won in the 2009, 2010 or 2011 seasons.
- All said that the monies in the kitty were kept in a locked cash box secured in Mr. Williams’ office.
- Mr. Vitt also told NFL investigators that he saw Mr. Williams with envelopes he, that is to say Mr. Vitt, assumed contained payout cash from the program.
- One of the witnesses described how the process worked after Saints wins. Mr. Williams would announce the recipients of the cash at a defensive team meeting prior to the game after the one in which the payout was earned.
- A staffer or assistant to Mr. Williams would then hand out the cash payments to the recipients in envelopes addressed to them.
- The next slide actually pictures one example, it’s on the screen now, of the payment envelope where the handwritten notations again have been typed, as I explained before.
- So this is Exhibit 7, previously produced to you, which shows a payment envelope for a $200 payment to Mr. Vilma. The amount — the net amount he was owed for two whacks plus $200 after accounting for one mental error and minus $200 for the Miami game.
- amounts written on the envelope correspond with the previous document we just reviewed on the previous slide –
- Will you go back to that for a second.– in Item 7, as you’ll see it.
- Back to the next slide.
- And as noted on the envelope at the bottom, Mr. Vilma evidently returned this particular payment to the pool.
- Again, I should note here that the NFL investigators are in possession of the original of this envelope that’s been typed and shown on the screen at the moment.
- As we’ve said previously, the League first investigated the bounty allegations
in early 2010. Documents and a number of witnesses indicate that notwithstanding an awareness of the League’s investigation, the Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program continued beyond the 2009 system — season, sorry, and was operated in the 2010 and 2011 NFL seasons.
- Multiple witnesses with firsthand knowledge, including Mr. Williams and another member of the defensive coaching staff, acknowledged to NFL investigators that the program continued in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
- One of these sources informed NFL investigators that payments were made from the kitty after every Saints win, including payments for injury-producing plays like cart-offs. The source also stated that Mr. Williams insisted that all discussions about the administration of the program remain secret and records relating to particular games were destroyed immediately after the game.
- Mr. Williams acknowledged that he assumed all records were discarded after each game.
- The League interviewed a witness named Duke Niphon, who credibly claimed to be present at some Saints team meetings during the 2011 NFL season, a claim that he substantiated by showing photos to League investigators via the Internet.
- In March 2012, Mr. Niphon reached out to the NFL. He described himself as a trained respiratory therapist and a person also expert in sleep disorders, who is the CEO/president of the Sleep Point Company located in Kansas.
- He explained that he was a friend of Gregg Williams and was asked to speak to the team during training camp for the 2011 season. Thereafter, he said he attended many of the games in the 2011 season and was given free access to the Saints players for purposes of understanding the demands and stress placed on NFL players and coaches.
- Mr. Niphon told League investigators that although he was present at locker room meetings during the 2011 NFL season, he never saw evidence of players receiving payments for injury-producing plays.
- Mr. Niphon said that he was not present at any meetings during either the 2009 or the 2010 season and he acknowledged that he was not present at all defensive meetings during the 2011 season.
- In addition, he acknowledged to NFL investigators having personally seen on occasion envelopes in the Saints locker room at some of the defense meetings he did attend, which he assumed contained cash, although he did not know that or what the cash was for or what the basis — his basis was for believing that there was cash in the envelopes that he saw.
- The envelopes he saw he said were not distributed in his presence. His account of his recollections of what he witnessed in the 2011 season was not considered by NFL investigators to contradict the clear recollections of those who actually participated in the program.
- This electronic document from Exhibit 8 previously produced to you lists several players who had contributed money into the program kitty near the start of the 2011 season, including Mr. Vilma. And it is consistent again with the witness accounts that the NFL investigators received.
- The fact that the pay-for-performance/bounty program continued into the 2011 season is further evidenced by public statements made by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon after the Commissioner’s decision on May 2, 2012.
- On May 31, 2012, Mr. Pamphilon posted an essay on his blog entitled, “When You Kill the Head, the Body Doesn’t Die.” A copy of this essay was previously provided as Exhibit 15. In that essay, Mr. Pamphilon reports that he was present at a meeting of the New Orleans Saints defense on January 13, 2012, the night before their 2011 season playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on January 14, 2012.
- During the meeting, Mr. Pamphilonwrote, this is a quote, “Gregg Williams began passing out envelopes for bonuses. At least one seemed to be for a whack hit, but most were performance-based for turnovers. As the money was to be doled out, many of the players began playfully screaming, ‘Give it back, give it back’.”
- Mr. Pamphilon voluntarily played for NFL investigators a video, an audio account of this particular 2011 season defensive meeting.
- I guess, Mr. Miller, I’ll turn to you and ask you whether you were present when he did so.
- MR. MILLER: I was.
- MS. WHITE: Can you describe very briefly what it showed, the video showed.
- MR. MILLER: The video showed Coach Williams — he can be heard on the video handing out payment for players for big plays in the previous game. And this occurred during a defensive meeting prior to the playoff game against the 49ers.
- MS. WHITE: In addition to the slides like the next one, which is about to be up on the screen, which is from Exhibit 9 previously produced, depicting rolled-up money appear in presentations of the defense as late as 2011.
- A member of the defensive coaching staff told NFL investigators that slides like this one were routinely included in the defensive squad’s PowerPoint presentations and were meant to portray the money available under the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- This one would appear to have been included in the PowerPoint presentation prior to the 2010 season playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, which was played on January 8, 2011. And that PowerPoint has been produced to you as Exhibit 9.
- So in addition to the evidence that we’ve just gone through demonstrating that the four players sanctioned by the Commissioner participated in a Saints pay-for-performance/bounty program that rewarded injury-risking or injury-inducing plays, whacks, cart-offs and knockouts, the NFL investigation also found direct evidence that certain members of the Saints defense pledged specific sums of money to any defensive player who knocked opposing quarterbacks out of the game during the 2009 playoffs.
- According to multiple firsthand sources who League investigators interviewed, Mr. Vilma offered such rewards. One of the witnesses present at the defense meetings prior to the divisional playoff game with the Arizona Cardinals on January 16, 2010, at which this happened, described the events to the NFL investigators in a statement this way. And it’s on the screen and I’ll read it for the record.
- “In the NFC” — this is a quote.
- “In the NFC divisional playoffs, the Saints faced the Arizona Cardinals. During a meeting of the defense the night before the game in January 2010, Jonathan Vilma, a Saints defensive captain, asked for permission to address the team, which was granted. Mr. Vilma, in the course of giving a motivational speech to the team, stated, while raising his hands, each of which held stacks of bills, that he had two five stacks, which I understood to mean $10,000, for anyone who knocked Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of the game.”
- The substance of this account that Mr. Vilma offered a $10,000 payment to any player who knocked Kurt Warner out of the game was independently confirmed by Mr. Ornstein, who was present at the meeting.
- In addition, Mr. Williams and Mr. Ornstein and another member of the Saints defensive coaching staff, all of whom were present at the meeting, all stated to NFL investigators that Mr. Vilma pledged $10,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the next week’s NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
- All three witnesses stated that the amount of this bounty was $10,000. Williams also admitted that he personally pledged $5,000 to any player who knocked Brett Favre out of the game.
- According to one of the witnesses present at the meeting, the bounty offered by Mr. Vilma prior to the NFC championship game inspired additional players to pledge money for injury-producing hits or potentially injury-producing hits against opposing players or for other types of plays during the game.
- Mr. Vitt told NFL investigators that this meeting, quote, got out of hand, unquote. NFL investigators were informed that a member of the defensive coaching staff kept track of the various pledges made by players at this meeting.
- The slide that’s on the screen now shows again a typed version of contemporaneous handwritten notes taken during the meeting. That’s from Exhibit 10 previously produced to you.
- In these contemporaneous notes, Mr. Vilma, if you look at the top of that note, is shown to have pledged $10,000 on the quarterback. Mr. Smith and Mr. Fujita are shown to have pledged, if you look at the bottom of that note, $5,000 and $2,000, respectively, to the general program pool.
- In addition, NFL footage from the NFC championship game confirms that the Saints players were keenly aware of the existence of the bounty on Mr. Favre during this game.
- What we’re about to show is game footage of several plays during a third-quarter possession by the Vikings followed by sideline footage captured by NFL films, in which Mr. Hargrove’s voice is captured.
- For ease of understanding, his remarks are shown in captions.
- (Video played.)
- MS. WHITE: That clip is actually from Exhibit 14, which was previously produced to you.
- So what this film footage showed to the NFL investigators was that after Mr. Hargrove is told that Mr. Favre might have broken his leg and may not be returning to the game, Mr. Hargrove smiles or winks and states, “Bobby, pay me my money.”
- When taken together with evidence we already reviewed of the bounty for knocking Brett Favre out of the game, the League investigators understandably drew the inference that Mr. Hargrove’s statement references the bounty on Brett Favre.
- “Bobby” is Saints player Bobby McCray, who had made the hit on Favre on the previous play, for which it appeared Mr. Favre would not return to the game because of an injury.
- Mr. Hargrove’s statement on the film corroborates the witness accounts that there was a bounty payable for a hit on Brett Favre that resulted in him being knocked out of the game. It is also evidence of Mr. Hargrove’s knowledge of that bounty and the pay-for-performance/bounty program, contrary to what he told NFL investigators in early 2010.
- Just for context, just to note, in this game, three tackles made by the Saints players on Brett Favre were later fined by the League. Mr. Hargrove was fined $5,000 for lifting and stuffing his opponent to the ground.
- Mr. McCray was fined for two hits on Favre for a total of $20,000. One was a fine for unnecessary roughness. Another was for a hit on the quarterback on a play when Favre threw an interception and Mr. McCray delivered a blow to the knee area of the quarterback.
- As noted, Gregg Williams and another Saints defensive coaching staff member confirmed to NFL investigators that the Saints pay-for-performance/bounty program continued for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
- Documentary evidence that the investigators found on the Saints’ system confirms this and suggests that the practice of placing specific bounties on specific opposing players also may have continued beyond the 2009 season, including after the League commenced its 2010 investigation, although neither Mr. Williams, nor any other witness recalled an instance in the 2010 and/or the 2011 seasons where a bounty had been placed on a specific opponent.
- One defensive staff member recalled that there were one or two times in 2010 and 2011 when a player pledged additional amounts to a quarterback cart-off, a cart-off or another specific play, but didn’t recall who or in what games.
- The next PowerPoint slide comes from a defensive team presentation from January 7, 2011, prior to the January 8, 2011, NFC wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks. And incidentally, the red circle and the typed name was added to the slide just for explanation.
- It features the picture of former TV personality and professional bounty hunter Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman and encourages players, if you look in the red circle, to do their job and collect bounty money, three dollar signs with an exclamation point.
- As you can see at the top of this slide, they’re images of key offensive Seahawks players, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck; wide receiver Mike Williams, number 17; and running back Marshawn Lynch, number 24, next to the photo of a sniper scope.
- On another document in Exhibit 9 previously produced to you is a slide that contains the language, quote, “Eliminate number 17/number 24.”
- That’s on — just to give you the document number in Exhibit 9, NFLSL00056.
- One defensive staff member said that the payment amounts doubled or tripled for the Seahawks game, that Coach Williams wanted Matt Hasselbeck hit as often as possible, but said he could not recall if any players pledged extra funds for cart-offs or quarterback cart-offs for this game.
- He did say that during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, if the team won, Saints players always received financial rewards for, among other plays, cart-offs and quarterback cart-offs.
- What I’d like to do now is just very briefly summarize the evidence that the NFL security investigators obtained regarding the role of each of the four players so you have that kind of collected in one place.
- We’ll start with Jonathan Vilma. This slide summarizes the evidence with respect to him, much of which we’ve already discussed. Gregg Williams stated that Mr. Vilma contributed seed money to the pay-for-performance/bounty kitty at the start of each of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 NFL seasons.
- This information is corroborated by handwritten notes provided by another source that show Mr. Vilma committed to pay $2,000 into the kitty at the start of the 2009 season. That’s Exhibit 1 –
- You might turn to that film and come back to it.
- – which we already reviewed. You’ll see the red circle was put on by us just to illustrate.
- It’s also corroborated by thedefensive presentation slide recovered from the Saints’ computer system indicating that Mr. Vilma contributed money to the pool during the 2011 season. And that’s
- Phil, do you want to go to that next one.
- Again, we’ve talked about that one before.
- Numerous documents that were created contemporaneously using the Saints’ computer system, including Exhibits 5 and
6, again we’ve reviewed already, show Mr. Vilma’s participation in the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- .before and talked about, is the payout envelope for Mr. Vilma for the Miami game.
- And finally, at least three sources, including Mr. Williams, all stated that Mr. Vilma pledged a $10,000 bounty against Brett Favre during the 2009 playoffs.
- Two sources said he also placed a $10,000 bounty on Kurt Warner in the divisional playoff game.
- So to summarize, the evidence discovered during the NFL’s investigation supports the conclusion that Mr. Vilma, a defensive team captain, actively participated in the pay-for-performance/bounty program, including by providing substantial sums as seed money for the kitty and offered a $10,000 bounty to any defensive player who knocked Kurt Warner and later Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC playoff games.
- Exhibit 10, which we looked at, shows handwritten notes reflecting the $10,000 pledge on the quarterback Brett Favre for the Minnesota game.
- It’s entitled, “Mini Game” at the top. And again the red circle we’ve put on.
- Next Mr. Hargrove.
- If you go to that slide.
- Several documents indicate thatMr. Hargrove was assessed for fees in connection with the Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program. Exhibit 4, which we’ve seen already, indicates that for Mr. Hargrove.
- And then Exhibits 11 and 12 –
- If you can go to those, Phil.
- – are additional examples showing the same thing. If you see, this one is from the Atlanta game. “Due from the Atlanta game, Hargrove, 200,” and then Exhibit 11 is a similar example.
- The sideline film we viewed earlier showed to the investigators that Mr. Hargrove was aware of the bounty that had been placed on Mr. Favre and a willing participant in the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- Despite his participation in the program and his knowledge of the bounty placed on Brett Favre, Mr. Hargrove falsely denied the existence of the program when interviewed by NFL investigators in 2010. Mr. Hargrove later acknowledged this lie in his declaration in which he explains his misstatements by pointing to his former coaches who instructed him to deny the existence of the Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program and bounties and that he did so.
- I’ll just go through the slides, Phil.
- Other independent evidence from a source present at a meeting in early 2010 supports Mr. Hargrove’s statement that he was asked to and willingly agreed to falsely deny the existence of the program. And just for the record, let me read the slide that’s on the screen.
- Quote, “I subsequently was present at a meeting between Mr. Vitt and Anthony Hargrove, a defensive player, during which Mr. Vitt instructed Mr. Hargrove to deny any knowledge of the program if he was interviewed by the NFL investigators. Mr. Hargrove agreed to lie to the investigators saying, to the best of my recollection and in substance, ‘I can lie with the best of them’.”
- Moving on to Mr. Smith, this slide summarizes the evidence with respect to him. As we have reviewed, the evidence establishes that Mr. Smith, also a defensive team captain, participated in the Saints’ defense pay-for-performance/bounty program and contributed substantial sums to the program kitty in excess of those contributed by the average participant.
- Mr. Williams stated that Mr. Smith pledged seed money to fund the program at its inception and at the beginning of each season. This statement about the 2009 season is corroborated by contemporaneous handwritten notes, that’s Exhibit 1, which you’ve seen before, showing $1500 — a $1500 pledge contribution.
- Documentary evidence obtained fromthe Saints and authenticated by forensic experts shows that Mr. Smith was assessed game fees for errors in several different games, establishing that he participated in the program.
- We’ve looked at Exhibit 4 already.
- And Exhibit 13 shows dues are owed to the program by Mr. Smith, again the red circle being added by us. Mr. Williams also confirmed that Mr. Smith pledged significant sums during the 2009 playoffs, but could not recall whether it was for player-specific bounties or other aspects of the pay-for-performance/bounty program.
- Next slide shows Exhibit 10, that Mr. Smith contributed $5,000 to the general pool prior to the Vikings game. And again we’ve reviewed that previously.
- Mr. Fujita. The evidence
- establishes that Mr. Fujita participated in the Saints’ defense pay-for-performance/bounty program and contributed substantial sums to the program kitty in excess of those contributed by the average participant.
- Documentary evidence shows that Mr. Fujita was assessed game fees related to the program, and that’s shown in the next slide, which comes from Exhibit 11, which has been previously produced to you. That shows $200 in game fees owed by Mr. Fujita from the second Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in the 2009 season.
- In addition, a Saints coach informed NFL investigators that Mr. Fujita pledged additional sums for, quote, big plays during the 2009 NFL playoffs. This statement was corroborated by another source.
- Contemporaneous handwritten notes, which is our Exhibit 1, dating from the start of the 2009 season show that Mr. Fujita pledged a significant sum, approximately a thousand dollars, to the pool for sacks and forced fumbles.
- Finally, handwritten notes from the 2009 NFL playoffs show that Mr. Fujita was among several players who pledged a substantial sum of money, $2,000 in his case, to the general pool to be used — a pool which was used in part to reward players if there were injury-inducing plays such as cart-offs or knockouts.
- So based on –
- Actually, Mr. Miller, let me ask you one question before I just conclude this summary.
- And that is, during the course of your investigation, did any of the sources of your information ever retract what they had to say with respect to any of the four players we’re discussing today?
- MR. MILLER: No.
- MS. WHITE: So just to conclude, based on all the evidence, both documentary as well as information coming from witnesses with firsthand knowledge, the factual findings of the investigation upon which the Commissioner based his disciplinary decisions are, in my view, fully supported by the evidence found during the NFL’s investigation.
- It should be noted, I think as it was earlier, that none of the players agreed to an interview with the League investigators or provided any evidence to the investigators casting doubt on or contradicting the findings of the investigation.
- That concludes my summary.
- MR. PASH: Mr. Kessler, do you have any comment that you would like to make?
- MR. KESSLER: As I mentioned, we won’t participate in the merits discussion. I would note for the record, per my earlier objections, that much of the material presented by Ms. White is materials that we asked for that have not been provided.
- Particularly we received no handwritten notes in any contemporaneous fashion. We received no witness statements. The witness statements are referred to.
- In any case, the identity of witnesses have not been identified so the players could not even begin to mount a defense to confront their accuser.
- We note that we did hear now that statements were allegedly made by Coach Williams and Coach Vitt. We ask for both of them to be produced as witnesses. They’re not here so that plaintiffs have no chance to confront those individuals.
- And we heard about forensic evidence and we received no forensic evidence and, therefore, we believe all of the evidence related to these matters are not properly before this proceeding and the proceeding is improper and not consistent with the notions of fairness in this hearing and, therefore, should be excluded.
- And I’ll just note that the rest of Ms. White’s remarks are basically oral arguments, which is not evidence.
- That concludes my remarks about that.
- MR. PASH: On behalf of Mr. Ginsberg’s office?
- MR. DEUBERT: We would adopt what Mr. Jeffrey Kessler said.
- MR. PASH: I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but any of the — this is your hearing. Would any of the players like to say anything? Or take any questions?
- MR. KESSLER: On the advice of counsel, the players have been advised that they will not be participating in the merits of the case.
- MR. PASH: There have been references — Mr. Ginsberg referenced this this morning, that there have been references from representative Players Associations on independent investigations that were performed by Mr. Ginsberg and by the Players Association.
- And notwithstanding the procedural issue that might be raised, we would certainly be willing to receive the results of those investigations or a report if you wanted to present those to the Commissioner as part of the record on the appeal. So
- I’ll just make that offer –
- MR. KESSLER: Again, for the reasons we discussed, since we don’t believe this is a proper procedure at this point, we’re not going to participate in the merits and, therefore, will not be submitting any merits evidence.
- MR. PASH: Would you like to, on behalf of the Players Association, file any kind of post-hearing memorandum?
- MR. KESSLER: At this point, I think we’ve stated our objections. If the Commissioner or you have any areas that you’d like us to further address on the procedural or jurisdictional objections or objections on bias or other matters, we’d be happy to further elaborate; but if you feel you have an adequate statement of those objections in order to rule upon them, we have not requested any opportunity for –
- MR. PASH: Is that true for Mr. Ginsberg’s office on behalf of Mr. Vilma as well?
- MR. DEUBERT: The same.
- MR. PASH: Why don’t we take about two-minute recess, and the Commissioner can consider if there’s anything he would like
to ask anyone before we conclude.
- (Recess from the record.)
- MR. PASH: I guess we’ll go back on the record.
- And as we’ve been discussing it during the break, I think, Jeffrey, and I’ll make the same offer to Mr. Ginsberg’s office as well, we’ll — assuming there’s nothing further today, which it sounds like there’s nothing further today, we will hold the record open until 5 p.m. on Friday.
- is free to file any paper that it wishes in support of either the procedural objections that you’ve raised or the bias issue. Or if, on reflection, you want to file something commenting on the merits, you’re welcome to do that as well.
- So whatever submission that people would like to make by 5 p.m. on Friday, we’ll accept it. If you conclude that you’re not going to make a submission, that’s obviously your choice as well. But we’ll hold the record open. You’ll have a chance to look at the transcript. If you’d like to file something, we’ll be happy –the Commissioner would be happy to receive it.
- MR. KESSLER: Thank you very much.
- MR. PASH: If there’s nothing
further, thanks very much. And appreciate your time.
- (The hearing adjourned. The time is 3 p.m.)