Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches play from the sidelines the NFC Divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Members of New Orleans Saints coaching and management staff have been fined and suspended and the team itself has been fined half a million dollars as a result of their bounty program. Coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the entire 2012 season and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely. A three year investigation uncovered a cash pool, that both player and staff contributed to, that was used to reward players for injuring those on the opposing team.
In a sport that is already considered violent, some are calling the punishment overly harsh. Viewers tune in for the big hits, so why is this activity considered so egregious? Part of the reasoning seems to be that the team continued offering the bounties even after they were told to stop. For NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell it is a “serious violation of an existing rule that threatens the health and welfare of our players,” adding, “We will always make the decisions that are best for the game, long term, and our players.”
While it can be assumed that the Saints aren’t the only ones guilty of bounties, they are certainly the only ones that have been caught at the moment. Now every team must deliver written and signed compliance with the anti-bounty rules by March 30.
But will it stop the practice or just make it more covert? Has the NFL done enough to make an example of the Saints or should it investigate league-wide on the issue? Should players be punished as well? And what impact will this renewed enforcement have on the upcoming season? Also, is football worth watching without the big hits?
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