Out Of Bounds
COMMISSIONER Roger Goodell has taken a good step toward repairing the NFL’s reputation for dirty play, gratuitous violence and neglect of player safety. To punish the New Orleans Saints for tolerating the payment of bounties to players for targeting and injuring opponents, Goodell suspended its head coach, Sean Payton, for a year without pay.
He also gave suspensions to other coaches and officials, including the team’s former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, who admitted designing and running the bounty program and misleading investigators about it. The team itself will have to pay a $500,000 fine and lose some future high draft picks, to the dismay of fans who are complaining that Goodell went too far.
As penalties in professional sports go, these are strong ones, but Goodell’s critics should spare us the hand-wringing.
We all know pro football is a tough game. That’s what the helmets, pads and paramedics are for. But it remains a game whose main purpose is moving or stopping a ball, not snapping bones or ligaments or causing concussions.
Football’s innate violence cannot excuse the transgressive brutality of a payfor- injury scheme. Imagine major-league ballplayers pooling money for pitchers to aim at batters’ heads, the way the Saints aimed to take out the quarterbacks Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner and Cam Newton.
This debacle dwarfs Spygate, and earlier scandal – the illegal filming by the New England Patriots of an opponent’s signals.
Spygate, too, was aimed at securing competitive advantage. But it did not involve intent to maim. As the NFL grapples with lawsuits involving players’ brain injuries, it needs more convincing actions like this to show that it is serious about safety and integrity.
We are glad Senator Richard Durbin is planning hearings on the bounty program.
The more we learn about deliberate violence, the less likely it is to happen.