NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and three of the league officials have been ordered to appear at a hearing in Louisiana to answer questions about the NFC Championship Game, but they are attempting to change the location due to safety concerns. In a brief filed by the league, numerous death threats were cited as the primary concern for their hesitancy to travel to Louisiana.
According to Sheilla Dingus, the president of Advocacy for Fairness in Sports, the defendants (Goodell and the officials) have filed a protective order asking for the deposition to take place outside of Louisiana. As an explanation for the request, the league provided examples of the death threats that have been sent their way through direct contact or on social media.
For example, one person put a bounty on head referee Bill Vinovich, who is one of the names being ordered to appear at the deposition. As the person wrote, "Bill Vinovich. That's the name. Murder him and you get 5,000 dollars. Find the other ones and get 1,000 dollars extra for each one."
This is totally uncalled for and troubling. Bullies hiding behind the safety of social media, or psychopaths prepared to carry out their threats? Either option isn't pretty. pic.twitter.com/rbBdyKBocy— Sheilla Dingus (@SheillaDingus) August 9, 2019
Gary Cavaletto, another of the officials, had an irate football fan show up at his neighbor's house, pounding on the door and asking to see him. This followed threats that specifically named his wife, children, and mother.
While not all of the death threats were specifically listed in the sample provided by Dingus, there is no denying that the messages are reason enough to hold the deposition in a different state. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was even sent a message that he should not ever think of stepping foot into Louisiana because he would be killed.
In addition to these death threats, another reason for the hearing to take place outside of Louisiana is that none of the defendants live in that state. Goodell resides in New York while the three officials all live in California. Additionally, these officials are part-time employees and rely on wages from other jobs. The brief states that taking a leave of absence to fly to Louisiana would be magnified by the travel time.
Obviously, travel costs and time away from work are much farther down the list of reasons to avoid going to Louisiana for the deposition, but they will play a factor in the coming weeks. At this point, the judge should be far more concerned about the health of the defendants.