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The rights and wrongs of an NFL Bounty Program

MIKE KAYE

“The defense is looking to send a message.” -Every NFL color commentator on television between the months of November and January.

This phrase does not refer to an email or candy graham; it means the defense wants to strike fear in the heart of the opposing team’s offense. No matter what way you look at it, the job of a defensive player is to defend, whether it’s  through force or finesse. Whether it is the constant threat of a turnover from a ballhawk like Ed Reed or the striking blow of James Harrison the message to opposing offenses is usually the same: “don’t go there.”

The New Orleans Saints and more directly, General Manager Mickey Loomis and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, are in hot water. Williams and his players allegedly put money towards hurting the opposition. When asked about it by the NFL in 2010, Saints owner Tom Benson said that he would get the situation under control. He told his GM (Loomis) to stop the bounty program immediately. Loomis said he would do just that

Following an internal investigation by the NFL, this proved to be a lie. According to Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks, the investigation revealed that there was no such evidence that Loomis took any action to stop the program.

The former defensive coordinator, Williams, continued the programs, which he also allegedly held in Tennessee and Washington as well as New Orleans.

The main issue here is that the bounty program itself is wrong, but the overall message is actually quite common. Coaches want to have an edge over the opposition, so injuring the opposing team’s best player is a great advantage in the quest for victory. The problem with assigning a value to said calculated advantage is the fact that the NFL prides itself on player’s safety.

Players will not harp on these allegations, but the NFLPA and the League will. The players sign up knowing how violent the game is and they don’t want to lose face by disputing the frightening intricacies of the game. The League and NFLPA have to be the angel on the shoulders of these guys and do what is best for the overall quality of life that these performers will have following their stint in the most lucrative sports business in North America.

Since Commissioner Roger Goodell took office, he has been an advocate for safety and this scandal literally goes against everything he has stood for since getting the job. There will be punishments, that is assured.

For the team, the backlash will be similar to New England’s Spygate scandal where they lost a first round pick the following year. For Williams, Loomis, the players involved and Head Coach Sean Payton (who had to have known about this), the consequences could be much worse.

Payton, who has been marveled as a great coach, is likely to be fined significant money and face possible suspension. Williams, despite being with another team, may get banned from the league for at least a season.

Loomis is likely to get the worst punishment. He could be blacklisted and rightfully so. What he did is unacceptable in any realm of business, whether it’s at Burger King or the NFL. He lied to his boss and the company he is apart of.

For the players, suspensions will likely take time as they do in most investigations, but rest assured, they will come. The worst punishment (in my opinion) is living with the fact that they needed to get paid even more to perform what their job already expects of them.

As a competitor, you should want to play the best competition, not eliminate hurdles. As a competitor, you should let your talent dictate the outcome of a contest. As a person most importantly, you should realize that injuring others on the field could have extreme consequences once the injured players retire or sooner.

The bounty program is a mark on the game, but it is going on in locker rooms in the high school, college and professional realms. The only difference is that a majority of those programs involve getting an interception or registering a sack. Players should play the game to win, not to injure and most do.

For those that don’t, it’s time to find a less-reputable career.

Photo: *****

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