Saints Put NFL, Goodell On Hot Seat

Saints Put NFL, Goodell On Hot Seat

After three years of investigation by the National Football League the world is crashing down on the New Orleans Saints and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Williams has been accused of running a sophisticated bounty scheme while becoming one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL today. The bounties rewarded players for routine things such as fumble recoveries and interceptions, but reports also say that players were rewarded for knocking key players out of the game.

Chris Graythen - Getty Images

This controversy has spurred on quite a debate, and in a world where every sports fan has a strong opinion on just about everything from stadium food to uniform colors, no one can really decide exactly where to stand on this.

The reason for that is the complexity of the situation. On one hand, you have reports of players trying to put another player’s livelihood in jeopardy for some extra cash. But on the other hand, you have a league that promotes violence and sells jaw breaking hits in highlight reels on DVDs.  To complicate the NFL’s situation further, commissioner Roger Goodell has instituted many new rules and fines in the past few years, claiming to care about player safety, now only to see their very own players doing the exact opposite.

It starts with the NFL. They promote a sport in which 6-foot-4-inch men who weigh 285 pounds with nearly no body fat run at tremendous speeds until they collide with another similar physical specimen. The collision that results is just what the core audience of the NFL wants to see on their big-screen HDTV’s.  They want big hits.  In essence, they want VIOLENCE.  Then each player goes back to their team’s huddle to do it all over again.

The league then takes the very best of those hits, (the ones where you jumped out of your chair, or off your couch, and felt it for the next three weeks in muscles you didn’t even know you had), and they put it on their own NFL Network, or on a commercial, or a DVD for sale in retail stores. The NFL can “promote” player safety all they want, but they can’t hide behind the fact that every powerful hit is making THEM more cash.

But it goes far beyond that. See, this involves the players. These are the same players who are complaining about the league not taking care of them in their post-NFL lives. These are the same players who want the league to make it as safe as possible for them, so that one day, they can play with their kids without having to do it from a chair on wheels.

I understand there is a “team” mentality to the whole game, and you don’t want to let your team down. But you can do that to the fullest extent while playing within the rules, whistle to whistle. The rules are in place to protect the players for a reason. The league doesn’t want to see backup quarterback No. 1 against backup quarterback No. 2 in a prime time game, and neither do you.

The most troubling part of this bounty scandal is the news of Saints coach Sean Payton bringing in outside influences to help aid in the scheme. No longer does it make it a “do it for the team” thing. You are bringing in an outside party to influence and encourage the assault of another person, and the player aspect gets taken out of the equation. Just because a boxer fights in the ring does not mean I get to walk up to him while he’s on his way back after a match and start freely throwing punches at him. I would go to jail for that after a lengthy trial that which I couldn’t afford. That’s what is happening here with an outside party being brought in to aid all of this.

There is room for making a big play or delivering a big hit in the NFL. It’s a contact sport and players know the risks when they sign on the dotted line. What there isn’t room for is players being systematically targeted by outside influences and receiving financial compensation for doing so. It’s the last thing the NFL wants, and it’s the last thing the image of the game needs.

One would have to begin thinking about why an outsider would be so willing to throw thousands of dollars willingly at a player with nearly nothing in return. That’s a blemish the league can’t afford to have on its image. It’s that very image that commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to avoid.

So the ball is in Goodell’s court. Williams and the Saints weren’t the only ones doing some form of this, and it’s time for the commissioner to make a statement. It’s not that it is completely wrong for players to be rewarded for playing well, but at least one person has taken it too far. Unfortunately, they ruined it for everyone else. Without a strong stance by Goodell, the league risks an image nightmare they may not be ready for. Then again, NFL fans are forgiving of ALMOST anything. Can the NFL afford to take that chance?

This is a guest post by Chris Gasper from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Chris Gasper grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He went to and played baseball at Columbia College. Wanna read more from Chris? Click here.

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