When 27 players on the New Orleans Saints threw money in a pot for the purpose of seeing who could be the first one to knock an opposing player out of the game, it was much more than a frat house prank. It was criminal action.
However, that may have only been the tip of the iceberg.
Saints’ coach Gregg Williams headed up this activity and head coach Sean Payton was aware of it. Fortunately for the Saints, Greg Blache, the coach who replaced Williams, didn’t like running a bash-for-cash program and he put an end to it.
However, Saints coaches were warned and then continued the bounties anyway.
If local authorities want to take legal action against team members, the personal cost could be much steeper than any punishment the league could hand down.
Media outlets are shamelessly rushing to capitalize on the event by debating whether or not Spygate is worse than Bounty Gate. How can spying for the purpose of corporate gain even be debated as worse than the physical damage resulting in the ending of a player’s career?
However, I’m not entering into that debate. As far as I’m concerned the Saints have committed what amounts to State and Federal offenses. And their actions represent even more than that.
Take football out of the equation. If your boss said I want you to go break Tom’s hands, he makes a living with his hands so, we’ll take that away from him. Or, hey, go bust John’s leg, he makes his living with his legs so, we’ll take that away from him. It sounds like something out of “The Godfather.” Perhaps we should treat them like mafia criminals. After all, it’s criminal activity. It’s just obscured by the game of football.
Greg Doyel, who writes for CBS Sports, reports that upon questioning his own father, Robert Doyel, a retired judge, about the bounty placed on players heads by Gregg Williams and the Saints players, he said,
No might be about it,” the retired judge told me Sunday, when I called him to ask if Gregg Williams’ bounty system “might be” criminal. “There’s no question, this was criminal. If a player was hurt, and he was hurt by players playing outside the rules — with intent to injure, and ‘intent’ is the key word here — that makes it a battery. No one in the NFL consents to being hit in such a way that is intended to injure them. This was criminal.
Consider what members of the Saints organization, employees in the NFL, have done:
- With malice aforethought (premeditation) NFL employees committed violent crimes against another person with intent to do harm.
- NFL employees repeatedly colluded, with the intent to commit violent crimes, over a three year period.
- NFL employees lied to investigators. All of them who were questioned.
- The intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting, as a business, of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit is a crime (Louisiana state law).
- NFL employees changed their stories, thereby seeking to defraud the NFL investigation.
- NFL employees may have failed to report the income on their tax returns. The IRS is interested in any player who didn’t report income resulting from their bounty winnings.
- NFL employees crossed over State lines with the intent to do harm (Feds may get involved).
The bounty is the proof of the intent. It’s not just nauseating, despicable and morally reprehensible… it’s criminal.
The league is also interested in whether or not the “play-to-slay” practice has violated salary cap rules.
At the height of this “pay for performance” program during the Saints’ Super Bowl run in the 2009 playoffs, payouts might have reached a staggering $50,000. ~ESPN Sports
The bounty being paid to players for making hits that maim and hits that permanently injure are doing more than giving the NFL a black eye. High school football players are now coming forward and admitting to this same practice. Now, high school football players can masquerade to justify those actions.
I don’t know what Roger Goodell will do to punish the players and Saints organization for what has become known as “Bounty Gate” but, the price to pay should be steep.
Goodell needs to completely separate what the league stands for…
from what the ugliness of Bounty Gate represents.
At a time when the league has made a big push for safety and come out with more safety rules, such as changing placement of the kick-off spot, to reduce the number of injuries, the Saints shame the league. The Saints have been following this practice from 2009 through 2011, including their Super Bowl season, and in essence disgracing the City of New Orleans as well as their own Super Bowl crown. It is a crown of shame.
It’s especially regrettable in the face of all the assistance the team gave to the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
So, for many, the betrayal is personal.
I have long had the memory of Drew Brees holding his son, following their Super Bowl victory, with streamers coming down. A true all-American moment. The little guy wins big. The long suffering organization finally climbs to the top of the mountain.
This bounty misery taints the memory.
One of the reasons that the league is moving to make the game safer is that they don’t want to ever have to face an actual death on the field. They are ever so fortunate that there wasn’t a death as a result of the Saints actions. Can you imagine the furor and culpability that the Saints, and the league, would face in that event?
The NFL Network may be forced to let analyst Darren Sharper go if he continues to refute the NFL’s report that Saints players were paid a performance bounty to injure opposing players who were removed from the field as stated by the league’s investigation.
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young says he thinks any player who was hurt as a result of the Saints bounty payments has a legal recourse.
I was shocked at the fact that it was institutionalized and that they paid for hurt players,” Young said. “I think it opens up, if I’m hurt against the Saints in the last couple years, I’m suing the Saints.
The bounty system may be more pervasive and well accepted than first thought. In an article PFT posted on Sunday about Greg Blache putting a halt to the bounty program, a poster in response to this article said,
I Love the bounty system. Just don’t reward hits that are penalized. Deron Cherry said on WKNR /Cleveland yesterday that some guys loved bounty money more then their game checks. How cool. I have NO problem with this. Whatever it takes. bounty $ may be better then roids! ~thetooloftools
I’m unsure why Deron Cherry is making such a statement but, if it means that bounty checks were being distributed during Deron Cherry’s day, on Deron Cherry’s Chiefs, it raises the question of whether or not this could have been going on for decades, across the league.
It’s been suggested that bounties have been used in the NFL since the 1950s.
You’d be right to assume there’s more to this than the isolated three year incident in New Orleans. The league has decided to investigate the Washington Redskins organization so, it makes you wonder just how prevalent bounties are.
Indianapolis Colts ex-coach Tony Dungy says he can link Peyton Manning’s current injury to the Bayou bounties. He also says that the NFL will likely perform a more in-depth league wide investigation. The most recent NFL report on the Saints has over 50,000 pages of documents.
Gregg Williams once worked for, and was close with, Jeff Fisher. Fisher likes to control every aspect of his team. So, Fisher likely had knowledge of such practices by Williams. Surely Williams didn’t show up one day in New Orleans and decide to start this on his own so, there’s a good possibility Fisher had cardinal knowledge. What’s especially disturbing about that is, Fisher’s long involvement with the league’s competition committee. You’d think he’d make sure his ship was a clean one.
If Fisher did know and did nothing, it points to a double-standard.
Now, there will be an environment of distrust on the field of play in the NFL. Players will be looking over their shoulders to see who’s coming at them from a bad angle. Some players will begin looking back and wondering if there was a bounty on them. Ask Eric Berry. He’s already begun to wonder.
At the core of the issues here are the double-standards that have arisen in the field of sports. No one knows for sure whether or not Ryan Braun (MLB- NL MVP) did the drugs that he tested positive for. Doping at the Tour de France has become epidemic and no one knows for sure who’s taking and who’s clean. No sport has gone untarnished by players, and coaches, stretching and breaking the rules.
While doping in sports has reached epidemic proportions, bounty payments are pandemic in the NFL (pandemic means- an epidemic that is geographically widespread occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world). In the world of football, bounty payments may be present at every level of the game.
What we’re seeing now, is only the tip of the iceberg.
The battle lines are being drawn. Ex-players and much respected sports analysts like Tom Jackson of ESPN are saying all the wrong things. Jackson says when he was playing he tried to “hurt people all the time but, not injure.” I’m not sure he really hears what he’s saying. He’s playing a dangerous game of justifying his actions through semantics.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest apologists for bounty payments is former player Mike Golic, co-host of the radio talk show called “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” He keeps confusing legal hits with illegal hits and by so doing is muddying the waters. However, it’s his accepting attitude that’s appalling.
At a time when ex-players and coaches should be stepping forward and denouncing bounty payment practices, many are blatantly excusing what they’ve done. They are somehow blinded to the ways that paying a bounty destroys the spirit of fair handed competition.
What’s the point in competing if some don’t compete fairly? Then winning becomes the central focus, as it has for many, and not the joy of competing.
When you have rules that are inviolate (free from violation) and people accept and operate within those rules, magic can emerge. It’s among the sweetest things that human beings can do…. Without the rules, there’s no meaningful game…. Why is it so important to me? Because in a society that works, nobody is truly above the rules. ~ From “What Sports Mean to Us- And Why it’s Important” by Mark Robert Banschick, MD in Psychology Today
I’m a fan of the USC Trojans. Do I look back differently now at the National Championship they won with Reggie Bush? Yes, I do. It seems sad, hallow and false.
Mark Banschick goes on to explain in his article on what sports mean to us, that people want the rules to be followed, because we want to “believe” and we want “magic” in our lives.
So, when commissioner Roger Goodell decides upon a consequence for the Saints, and whoever else may have participated in bounty payments, it’s not about exacting revenge or seeing the perpetrators suffer. It’s about re-establishing the rules and putting the magic back in the game. The game that we love. So, we can once again… believe.
And believe me, I want to believe.