Fallen Saints: NFL Punishes The Team and Coaches of The New Orleans Saints Over Bounty System

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended without pay for the 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned indefinitely for the team’s infamous bounty system on opposing players. However, Goodell said that he will review Williams’ status after next season. While I used to live in New Orleans and often cheer on the team (when the Bears are not playing), I think Williams should have received a lifetime ban and I am not sure Payton did not also deserve such a ban over the disgraceful practice. I also do not understand why the defensive line players who took this money have not also been punished, but Goodell said that he will address them separately. Goodell did fine the Saints $500,000 and took away their second-round draft picks this year and next year — sending a clear message to all teams.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight regular-season games next season, and assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games.

Under the system, players were paid thousands of dollars for injuring specific players. Williams appears the main proponent of the system. The bounties were paid to 22 – 27 defensive players. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000. They doubled or tripled the payouts for playoff games. The bounty reached as high as $50,000 in 2009. That was the year that Saints won the Super Bowl.

We have seen a line of cases involving criminal and civil liability over attacks by players on other players. Usually, these cases involve players getting too physical in contact sports. Even golf has been the subject of litigation.

We discuss this controversy in torts in the context of the case of Hackbart v. The Cincinnati Bengals involving a game between the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals in Denver in 1973. The Broncos’ defensive back, Dale Hackbart, was injured by a blow by Bengals’ offensive back, Charles “Booby” Clark. The court ruled that the hit fell outside of the NFL rules and thus Hackbart did not consent to such a battery. The reason was that the hit violated the rules of the game. However, there was no discussion of whether the rules of the NFL differed from the practices or industry custom.

This case would appear to question whether the court in Hackbart should have looked more closely on the actual practices in football as opposed to simply the rules. Yet, this punishment would suggest that the NFL is trying to bring practices in line with the rules. The individual players competing for the bounties should also be severely punished, though it is unclear if they will be punished. “Just following orders” has never been a particularly good defense and here the players are actively targeting individual players for injury. When players are hit with penalties for just grabbing a helmet, it seems incongruous to let them walk on a bounty system to receive money to put another player on a stretcher.

In the end, I would have imposed heavier penalties against both the team and the individuals. While the loss of two draft picks is heavy, it is not heavy enough even with the $500,000 fine in my view. This bounty system does not simply violate core rules of the game but constitutes the worst form of bad sportsmanship and misconduct in a professional sport. It sends a terrible message to all of the young people playing this sport. Lifetime bans would have been appropriate for the key managers in implementing such a system.

What do you think?

What would be interesting is a lawsuit by one of the injured players last season along the line of Hackbart. Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner, call me.

Source: US News

19 thoughts on “Fallen Saints: NFL Punishes The Team and Coaches of The New Orleans Saints Over Bounty System”

  1. “So Gregg Williams added the incentive of a “bounty”? How exactly did this change the equation? Are we supposed to believe that, say, a free safety who’s earning maybe $4 million a season will refrain from hitting a receiver across the middle as hard as he can—as hard as Ronnie Lott or former Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum did—because no one is slipping him an envelope with $5,000 cash?

    If anything, Sean Payton should have told his coaches and players, “Look, we’re not going to pay you any more to take guys on the other team out because that’s what we’re already paying you your salary for.”

    Are we supposed to believe that the Saints linebackers hit—what, maybe 10 percent harder?—because they were offered a bounty? If that’s what an NFL player needs to make him hit as hard as he can, then why was he in the lineup in the first place?”


    Being the voice of reason around here is getting to be a full time job.

    Also if you see dick durbin, shove an umbrella up his urethra and open it.

  2. I have long felt that rather than meaningless fines or brief suspensions, a player who causes injury by fouling another player in any sport should be suspended for the same amount of time as the injured player is out, whether that’s a game, a season or a career.

  3. I expected higher fines and lower suspension times … probably because I hadn’t thought enough about potential law suits

  4. In his book, Jack Tatum bragged about his hits being the difference between a “walk off” and a “carry off.”

    Then there was the Darryl Stingley hit. Stingley finally died in 2007 at the relatively young age of 55. Cause of death was pneumonia complications, which is a common cause of death among quadriplegics.

  5. “trying to injure an opposing player is NOT against the rules of the sport.”
    Actually, I’m pretty sure there are rules against intent to injure…maybe not during the game itself, but via league punishment after the game.

    “I think the punishment were too harsh, for an icon so great for a city with so
    Many heartaches!”

    Really? Because the city they play in had to deal with a hurricane they weren’t prepared for, the Saints should be allowed to run afoul?

    Really the only lesson taught here is: “Don’t get caught, but if you do, get caught two years after you won the Superbowl and collected all your bonuses”

    The Superbowl should have been vacated. But the Saints get to remain champs, and Vikings fans are left wondering what might have happened had the Saints played clean and not repeatedly tried to (did) hurt Farve, Peterson, and others.

  6. I think the punishment were too harsh, for an icon so great for a city with so
    Many heartaches ! And only really fair if the standard were practiced on all teams of the game, I understand it is and have been a general practice of
    Many teams !

  7. eniobob
    1, March 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

    They would probably have instant replay for every play LOL!!
    Alright you two. But, come to think about it, I’d watch more football if the men only wore speedos … sans cups of course.

  8. I agree Professor that the ban should have been a lifetime ban for all coaches and players who participated or covered it up.

  9. The problem with bringing suit along the lines of Hackbart would seem to be that, despite instituting bounties for injuring other players, there seems to be very little actual PROOF of any individual player ever acting with the express purpose of injuring an opposing player. Nor does the existence of a bounty program make it evident that any player ever acted outside the rules of legal play to injure another player. Essentially: trying to injure an opposing player is NOT against the rules of the sport. Paying people extra when they do…that is.

    (On another note, this punishment seems harsh AS COMPARED to the wrist-slap the Patriots got for cheating in the Super Bowl. Why no suspension for the Patriots head coach?)

  10. That’s where the conundrums come in…. Play to please the coach which pleases the owner…. Nero where art thou when we need your guidance…..

  11. I think they should ban tackle and go to flag football this way no one gets hurt.

  12. There is a current class action lawsuit against the league for failing to address injuries suffered by players– head injuries being the most prominent injury involved. The league’s action is in direct response to this suit and attempts to show that it will no longer tolerate excessive violence. There are two things that will bring down corporate giants: cheating and class action suits. Ask Big Tobacco.

  13. I also do not understand why the defensive line players who took this money have not also been punished

    Yeah, it might be good to disgorge that money and give it to the players on the other teams who were injured.

  14. Why not vacate their Super Bowel win? Take the trophy back and list the winner of XLIV as “NA”.

    That would probably cause more pain than a fiddling $500k fine

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