By now, it's pretty well established that New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma will go to great lengths to defend his reputation. Suspended for the 2012 season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his alleged involvement in an illegal bounty program, Vilma filed multiple lawsuits against Goodell and had his suspension overturned by a three-member appeals panel just before the start of the season.
So when Vilma found out that ESPN was conducting a character study on him that would air on "SportsCenter" this upcoming weekend, his reaction was not to say "Splendid. Remind me to set the DVR and invite all my closest friends over to watch." No, the social network-savvy linebacker took to Twitter and got out in front of the report.
Why is ESPN secretly conducting a character study on me?? they really think I wouldn't find out?!? Ill post the letter tomm[orow]
— Jonathan Vilma (@JonVilma51) September 27, 2012
An hour or so after the above tweet, Vilma decided to publicly expose ESPN's programming plans by tweeting a picture of the letter that ESPN features producer Barry Abrams had sent to potential interview subjects. Vilma received the letter from former NFL linebacker Eric Barton, Vilma's teammate with the New York Jets from 2004 through 2007.
Surely ESPN's producer knew that word would eventually reach Vilma that the network was attempting to do a character study. If that was at all a concern, it wouldn't have reached out to a former teammate who, like Vilma, has been suspended by the National Football League. (Barton was suspended for the first four games at the start of the 2011 regular season, but had already decided to hang up his cleats.) The only misstep by ESPN's producer may have been not expecting Vilma to react so publicly, which may have resulted in a lot of voicemails, emails and tweets from some of the 101,000-plus people that follow the linebacker on Twitter.
As for Vilma's legal situation, Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune reports that Vilma's legal team is scheduled to meet with the legal team for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday in downtown New Orleans.