NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Saints ticketholders sued NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a class action, claiming his suspensions of coaches and players in the bounty-hunting scandal "punished the innocent ticket holders more than anyone."
Lead plaintiff David James Mancina sued Goodell and the NFL in Federal Court. He claims Goodell's suspensions were "devastating" to "the confidence and emotional attachment" of the purported class of 85,000 ticketholders.
Mancina seeks more than $5 million in damages.
He complains that Goodell and the NFL waited until after this year's season tickets had been sold before telling the public the results of their 2-year-long investigation of the bounty hunting.
Saints players were accused of offering cash bounties to teammates who knocked opponents out of a game, and coached were accused of tolerating it.
Saints defensive captain Jonathan Vilma allegedly offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009-2010 NFC title game.
Goodell handed out tough suspensions, which were challenged in court, then by and large reinstated.
Mancina's complaint states: "The class purchased their tickets with the representation, and expectation, from the commissioner and the league that the Saints would be capable of competitively fielding a contending team comprised of the finest athletes, and the best coaches, under contract with the New Orleans Saints, or available to them through normal trades and draft choices, without dictatorial, unreasonable, vindictive, and unfounded, interference from the commissioner and the league, devoid of due process.
"The commissioner and the league on March 21, 2012, subsequent to the purchase of tickets by plaintiff and the class, or prior notice to the fan public of an alleged investigation ongoing from 2009, without due process, sufficient evidence, and without consideration for the rights of the paying ticket holder plaintiffs, and the 85,000 members of the class, summarily, without due process or credible evidence, suspended Sean Payton, the head coach for the entire year; Joe Vitt, the assistant head coach for the first six games of the 2012 season; Jonathan Vilma, the defensive captain for the entire 2012 season; Will Smith, the leading defensive end for the first four games of the 2012 season; Mickey Loomis, the general manager, for the first eight games of the 2012 season; and forfeiture of second round draft choices in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, thereby devastating: the quality of the Saints; the value of the tickets purchased by plaintiff and the class subsequent to their purchase; and the confidence and emotional attachment of plaintiff, and the class, to the Saints, due to the unfair, prejudicial, unreasonable, and vindictive, actions of the Commissioner and the League."
Mancina claims that rather than suspend the coaches and players, "assuming that their (sic) was some misconduct on the part of Saint players, coaches, or executives, which is denied, could have fashioned non-ticket holder penalties, such as hefty fines, that would have impacted the alleged violators, or those responsible for their actions under respondent superior alone, without impacting the quality of play. However, they chose a form of punishment that punished the innocent ticket holders more than anyone, without any consideration of the impact on the group, fans, that make the league, the commissioner, and the NFL teams, successful."
Mancina seeks class damages for "diminishment in the value of their tickets; their personal emotional reaction to the unwarranted penalties inflicted on their beloved team, players, coaches, and executives; and the deliberate reduction of the competitive capability of the Saints due to the selective gutting of the critical components needed to justify the loyalty of plaintiff and the class."
Mancina is represented by Lawrence Wiedemann, of Metairie.
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