By Zach Gray — Sports Editor
After a lengthy investigation, the NFL has handed multiple suspensions and fines to the New Orleans Saints for con- ducting a “bounty program” for the past three seasons. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams conducted a program from 2009-2011 in which play- ers were rewarded thousands of dollars for knocking players out of games. Other coaches and personnel were aware of the program, but didn’t intervene.
After much evaluation, the NFL suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton without pay for the entire 2012 season. Other suspensions include Ex- Saints (and current Rams) defensive coordinator Williams (who was suspended indefinitely), Saints general manager Mickey Loomis (eight regular-season games), and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six regular-season games). The Saints must also forfeit their second- round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, as well as pay a $500,000 fine.
A handful of players tweeted their opinion of the bounty system. Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman tweeted, “Why is this a big deal now? Bounties been going on forever. A ‘Bounty’ left me with a torn PCL and LCL in my knee …” Current ESPN foot- ball analyst and former New York Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody said the news wasn’t surprising. “ The bigger question w/ this ‘bounty’ issue is….. WHO SNITCHED?!?!” Woody tweeted.
It’s amazing to read the reactions from players who believe the Saints were harshly punished. These same players were outraged by the actions of the New England Patriots back in 2007, when the team was caught videotaping opposing sidelines to gain a competitive advantage. “Spygate,” as it is known, labeled the Patriots as cheaters.
To this day, players such as the Steelers’ James Harrison bring up Spygate, an incident no different from baseball players stealing signs. It’s ludicrous to believe that players would defend causing serious injury to opposing players, yet believe Spygate was the ultimate wrongdoing.
It seems as if players truly don’t have a sense of right and wrong. Merriman doesn’t find bounties to be a “big deal,” the same way steroids weren’t a big deal in 2006 when he was suspended for four games after a failed a drug test.
Although the Jets called out the Patriots for Spygate, Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi inten-tionally tripped Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll during a game in 2010, three years after Spygate.
Players can argue that bounties have been a part of football for some time, but the fact is league rules have long prohibited bounties. Football is a physical game and there is no doubt about it. But to be rewarded for playing with in- tent to injure another player is unethical and inhumane.