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BountyGate: The Crime and Punishment


Taxation without representation is a famous statement of the American Revolution.

Punishment without evidence is not allowed by the American Constitution.

Commissioner Roger Goodell wants players to “trust” him based upon his word and his alone.

NFL above the Constitution?

These three statements blend together into the NFL’s scandal called “BountyGate.”  First, let’s get this one fact straight, the Commish is an employee paid by the owners of NFL teams.  The owners’ (and NFL) are being sued (as of May 2) by more than 1,500 former players, mostly on player safety and health issues.  It is the Commissioner’s job to protect the NFL (and by protecting the NFL, also the owners).

However, Goodell is missing the point if he argues he is only trying to protect players by discouraging bounty-like programs.  Paying someone to injure someone else is a crime.  Not a yellow flag, not a suspension, but an actual crime, punishable by prison time.  If  Commissioner Goodell has evidence of actual payments of an injury-causing hit, which he claims to have, then the evidence should be handed over to all proper authorities for prosecution.  If Goodell doesn’t do this, he is  in dereliction of duty and complicit; he should be fired and should not be trusted.  It seems obvious that the Commissioner has other agendas on his plate rather than fighting for player safety.

How to solve the problem?  Easy, a simple release of the evidence would do wonders in toning down the rhetoric.  The Commissioner should be told that it is not often in the United States where someone can be penalized without the benefit of representation and without access to evidence against the accused.  In the NFL, obviously this can happen.  This overstepping of the Commissioner into the land of crime should lead legislators, especially those from Ohio, Wisconsin and Louisiana, to ask if this “monopoly” should not be controlled.  Maybe, just maybe, the NFL considers itself above the Constitution’s protection of our inalienable rights.

What is the solution?  Transparency.  The accused has the right to face his accuser.  And the accuser is NOT the NFL’s commissioner.  The accuser is the evidence gathered and used against the player to convict them.  Commissioner, show us the evidence.  We understand you are protecting the money men (owners).  Now be a Commissioner of the entire league and protect the rights of the players, too.

Dr. Ted Phillips is the Chair of Sports Studies at the United States Sports Academy and has had a long career as an educator and coach.  He is also a longtime diehard New Orleans Saints fan.  He can be reached at tphillips@ussa.edu.  Anyone interested in the Academy’s programs can go to http://ussa.edu.


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