Saints Bounty on NFL Players Creates Quite a Stir: Suspensions, Fines, Loss of Draft Picks Possible

The Center for Ethical Youth Coaching (CEYC) is very much up in arms over the recent purported “bounty” [reward] system for injuring opponents, associated with some of the New Orleans Saints players and coach Gregg Williams. A article (The Center for Ethical Youth Coaching Calls for Ban on NFL Coaches Who Set Bounties for Injuries) highlights several quotes from CEYC Vice President Dr. John Mayer and President Justin Mayer that clearly state their position on the matter:

“This is so fundamentally unethical and now so visible to the public that a precedent setting sanction must be levied on a coach who promoted such a program.” [Dr. John Mayer]

“What greatly concerns me about this type of incident at the professional coaching level is that these coaches are the models of practice for coaches at the levels below them. I am sickened to read on blog sites and hear on radio call-ins that youth coaches are speaking up and wondering what is wrong with a coach having such a bounty system on their team.” [Justin Mayer]

A Chicago Tribune article last Monday actually gave indication of possible consequences for Saints coaches, players and the organization itself, stating that they could include suspensions, fines, and even the loss of a first round draft pick for 2013.

Yet, in the same newspaper, several days earlier, former NFL safety Matt Bowen spoke not only of his time doing the same thing (putting bounties on players) under Coach Williams, stating it is “part of this game” but also inferring that this behavior is common in other NFL organizations. He just didn’t seem to see it as too big a deal; at least that is the feeling I got from reading his piece.

And he is not alone. If you search the internet a little, you will find others, including some former NFL players, who are a little bewildered over the uproar of such a practice as they seem to view these activities as part of the violence that is football. Rereading that last sentence in the earlier quote from CEYC president Justin Mayer drives that point home even further.

And yes, it is hard to deny that part of the game of football is to inflict punishment on the opposing team through physical contact. However, as I filter through the numerous articles (and there are a lot of them, everywhere), and variety of perspectives, I get the impression that some are missing the point of why this is an issue.

It is not that most people don’t understand the physical nature of football, even that there is a risk of serious injury to those who play. I think most do get that. It’s the whole idea behind the purpose of this bounty, and that a coach would actually support, even promote, the whole scenario.

To further clarify, the tough physical contact that occurs as part of the game is not the problem. That is not what the majority are upset over; it is the intent by players, and a coach, to cause actual physical harm to another that is getting under
their skin. Let alone the fact that players would get paid for doing so, and paid in increasing amounts depending on the severity of physical harm they cause.

Attitudes like this are at the center of unsportsmanlike conduct. They are part of a “win at any costs” attitude that perpetuates a genuine lack of respect for the game, its players, and undermines all the positive things that football can bring to the table.

There is a huge difference, light years in my mind, between someone who inadvertently puts an opponent out of the game, injures them, in the natural course of that game, and one who seeks to put an opponent on a stretcher, and is encouraged to do so, even rewarded, by peers and/or coaches. To me, they are as different as oil and water.

And from my perspective, the exact point at which coaches and/or players cross over that line, from honorable to dishonorable behavior, can be measured by the moment they decide to encourage and/or participate in behavior such as is exemplified by this issue. Bounties like this, they are more than just unethical; they are disgraceful, truly unscrupulous.

Whether bounties are informally accepted as part of football or not, the whole idea of honoring the game, a great game, must demand consequence befitting such behavior―suspension, fines, loss of a draft pick, or any combination that makes sense, would work.  Make no mistake, from a global perspective, imposing a high level of consequence is for the betterment of everyone at all levels of the game.

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