The debates are raging today as the National Football League hit the New Orleans Saints with some very severe penalties over what has been dubbed “Bountygate” by the media. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended from his head coaching duties for the full upcoming season, a move that will cost him over $7.5 million in salary including incentives. His former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely. The team was also fined a half-million bucks, as well as Payton himself. NFL’s disappointed commissioner stressed that this is the only beginning as players involved in the scheme will be punished as well.
The idea of the “bounty” program is nothing new in professional football. Many players across the decades considered this commonplace, and it is suspected that many teams around the league probably employed similar tactics at one time or another. The New Orleans Saints’ bounty program was considered to be especially egregious in nature. Basically, Gregg Williams set up a fund that paid out to defensive players that accomplished certain tasks. For example, a player might get a sum for knocking a player out of the game or injuring them. This is the bad part that gets dramatized in the media over and over. The program also provided incentives for other more normal tasks, like interceptions, or creating a turnover by causing a fumble.
Whether the punishment is too severe or not is a subject for the sports pundits to debate. Our take here at Common Sense Conspiracy is simple…What happened to this game? Now, no one out there wants to see players hurt, but at the same time, everyone understands that this is a possibility on every play in every game. Yes, it’s absolutely true that a player could take action to hurt a player intentionally, but the problem is that most of the time, these actions under the bounty program were performed entirely legally and within the rules of the game. And players have been fined repeatedly over the last few years for hits that were determined to be in violation of the rules. So, how can one distinguish between a player who is trying and playing hard, a characteristic we all look for in our players, and one who is actually trying to injure another player? Well, you can’t really, and that is the problem.
It’s funny how much of our politically correct culture is now seeping into even our sports. Just take a look around. It’s not just at the professional level. Little leagues giving out trophies to teams that didn’t win anything. Some in California don’t even keep score. And in the case of the bounty program, now we have a situation where a coach can’t ask his players to go out and play hard, because that might be giving them an “extra incentive.” Now, you might say that we are advocating the intentional injury of professional athletes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What we are pointing out is that it is part of the nature of the game. No one watches a boxing match and wonders if one guy was trying to hurt the other. There are rules in place to keep the fight fair and protect the fighters to a degree. However, if one guy can simply punch the other guy so hard that he injures him, his competitive spirit will not allow him to hold back. And why should he?
All that being said, the real dirt here is that the heavy-handed punishment levied against the Saints isn’t about punishment at all. It’s a desperate move by the NFL to absolve itself of some legal liability. Ever since the Saints’ bounty program was brought up centerstage, the NFL has been terrified that ex-players are going to start filing lawsuits, claiming that their injuries or handicaps were intentional acts. By condemning the Saints, the NFL is hoping to take some of the legal heat off of this, but there are already rumblings that a slate of lawsuits might be filed in the coming weeks. This could put the NFL and its players on the hook for huge penalties if the cases are successful in court. And when things are left up to a jury, as they would be if the case was not settled, there is no way to know how things will go. Roger Goodell and the NFL had to make a big splash, a statement that can protect itself when the smoke clears and the lawyers show up. This is just a harbinger of things to come. Pretty soon, we’ll have players suing other players for liability, leaving a league of big, powerful men afraid to do anything for fear of being taken to court. This is the new NFL, the kinder, gentler one, where quarterbacks are coddled and the rules of the game take a backseat to the whims of lawyers.
Where does it go from here? Will we have baseball players suing pitchers for wild pitches? What about the known fact that every baseball pitcher has intentionally struck a batter with the ball at some point, usually as revenge or a warning? That’s a clear case of intentionally trying to injure someone. And, the coaches know about it. Will they then be suspended for a year too? And in the NBA, they have a thing called an intentional, or flagrant foul. Well, instead of awarding free throws as punishment, maybe we should just simply suspend them and their coaches for the season. Save on lawsuits.
Can’t we just play football anymore? Why doesn’t the NFL just go on and make it two-hand touch and get it over with? And, still, we’ll hear someone complaining because Peyton Manning got pushed too hard.