The news certainly surprised me. The National Football League yesterday issued precedent setting suspensions and fines against the New Orleans Saints for a program they developed to help create a winning strategy.
That strategy? A bounty for taking an opposing player out of the game. The team actually paid players on the defensive line $1500 for injuring players on the opposite team. They have apparently had this program in place since 2009, the year they won the Super Bowl. As a result of the fines and suspensions, the team will have to pay $500,000, and Head Coach Sean Payton will be suspended for an entire year. Others, including assistant coaches and the team's General Manager, also face suspensions of varying severities.
The defensive players, the actual “hit men” in this case, wait to learn their fate. Apparently their punishment is currently being “negotiated” with their union. Gotta love that. The same union that represents the players they were paid to hurt is making sure the “hit men” don't suffer too much.
And of course, while we would expect shock and outrage at such an outlandish scheme, we get somewhat of a surprising response from NOLA Quarterback Drew Brees; someone I had a fairly high level of respect for until 6:45 this morning, when I read about this in my morning paper (yes, I am an online guy who still gets the morning paper. My wife made me do that, as she got tired of listening to me yell at the TV in the morning). Brees posted a comment on Twitter yesterday exclaiming shock, not at the pay for pain plan, but at the severity of the punishment. He said, “I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”
Ok, Drew baby, here is your explanation. I am typing it very slowly in order for you to be able to keep up: Paying people to intentionally hurt people is wrong.
There. I hope that clarifies things for you. You should also know that in any other world, this would be called “battery”, but that is probably a legal concept that is going to take too long to explain.
The entire idea is beyond the pale, really. Yet some people seem to have trouble grasping the concept. I seriously doubt Pepsi has a rewards program for their drivers who cut the brake lines on a Coca Cola deliveryman's truck. AT&T most likely does not pay wireless techs to arrange for the electrocution of their Verizon Wireless counterparts (although to be fair, if they tried to make that call on their own network it likely dropped). Many things in life are competitive, yet we all have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to play by the rules.
The New Orleans Saints clearly violated that principle.
I also find it strangely ironic that this story would come to light in the midst of other well known stories of NFL players and their workers' comp injuries. This is a huge issue for the industry, and learning that people were paid to intentionally add people to the injury roster is pretty darn disgusting.
I say good for the NFL. They need to make a clear stand against such egregious, “un-saintly” like behavior, and make sure that it does not happen again.