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Not long after making those statements on the record, Ginsberg, who is also representing Vilma in a separate defamation lawsuit against Goodell in federal court in New Orleans, left the hearing with Vilma in protest, They did not return for an afternoon session.

Later in the hearing, Kessler said the remaining three punished players _ Saints defensive end Will Smith, Green Bay defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, and linebacker Scott Fujita _ would listen to the remainder of the hearing, but would decline to participate because they believed the proceeding lacked elements required to meet the standard of a “fair hearing” under the NFL’s current labor agreement.

“The essence of that hearing contains certain matters that are being denied to the players here,” Kessler said. “In particular, we’re not being given the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the actual witnesses who have evidence on this.”

Kessler made an additional point that the NFL has already stated publicly that Williams, the defensive coordinator, ran the Saints' incentive pool, and that punishing employees for something their employers instructed them to do is “contrary to established legal principles.”

The NFL continued its portion of the hearing in which it reviewed evidence against the players.

Goodell did not recuse himself and it did not appear he would consider doing so after league attorney Adolpho Birch responded to Kessler that an arbitrator already ruled Goodell has the authority to hear the appeal.