The commissioner of the National Football League (NFL) recently told reporters that the league’s investigation of Saints players involved in the bounty scandal was nearing its end.
Roger Goodell has now announced penalties against Saints players for their participation in the team’s pay-for-pain bounty program. New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who put a $10,000 price on the heads of Cardinals QB Kurt Warner and Vikings QB Brett Favre in the 2009 playoffs, has been suspended for the entire 2012 season, effective immediately. He is eligible for reinstatement following the Super Bowl in February 2013.
Saints defensive end Will Smith will miss four games. Two ex-Saints were also disciplined with Browns linebacker Scott Fujita receiving a three-game ban while Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove is out for eight games.
Already the league has, of course, suspended Saints Coach, Sean Payton for one year; General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and defensive coordinator Joe Vitter for six games, as well as suspending former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with the Saint Louis Rams) indefinitely.
According the league’s news release, the players were suspended for “conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their leadership roles in the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance/bounty program that endangered player safety over three seasons from 2009-2011. Participation by players in any such program is prohibited by the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, the standard NFL Player Contract, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
Goodell has previously stated that the players’ actions were inexcusable, whether or not they were acting upon instructions by their defensive coach. The NFL release went on to detail specifics about each player’s participation in the scheme.
It remains to be seen whether or not the players involved will file appeals and, if so, exactly what role the players’ union will have in this process. As this story continues to unfold, everyone involved will no doubt continue to posture in an effort to deflect as much criticism as possible onto others.
The NFL, of course, wants to portray itself as doing everything possible to protect the well-being of its players, particularly given that it continues to defend itself against dozens of lawsuits that have been filed by former players or their representatives over the past 18 months involving concussions.
Even in the world of sport, it’s often more about perception and financial liability than it is about concepts like truth and integrity. Stay tuned.
Readers interested in reading more about the players’ suspensions in the bounty scandal can read this USA Today article.
The United States Sports Academy teaches Ethics in Sports in its sports management degree programs. For more information about out bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral disciplines and curricula, please visit www.ussa.edu.