Penalties, fines and suspensions have become a hot commodity in the NFL since commissioner Roger Goodell took over in 2006.
Hard hits are becoming inexcusable and almost certainly fineable. New rules penalizing touchdown celebrations have given fans ammunition to rename the National Football League the “No Fun League.” Plays that involve a questionable call are inevitably reviewed and cause fifteen minute real-time delays.
In other words, the modern era of professional football has become, in a word, soft. Instead of focusing on the quality of the game on the whole, the Commish is moving the NFL towards a PR-driven enterprise.
Perhaps Mr. Goodell is taking “it’s a business” a bit too seriously. However, the recent discovery of an incentive-driven bounty program within the New Orleans Saints organization has
caused Goodell to step into an uncharted territory in professional sports.
What is the proper penalty for front office personnel, coaches and players in a case where coaches were handing out cash rewards if a defender injures an opposing player? There isn’t a template in any book for Commissioner Goodell to follow. He essentially wrote the book last week.
To summarize, the Saints were docked a second-round draft pick for this year and 2013, assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games, GM Mickey Loomis eight games, head coach Sean Payton for the entire season and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who signed with the Rams in the off-season) was suspended indefinitely. On top of that, the Saints were fined a league-
Consequently, the Saints will not have a draft pick until the third round this year; New Orleans traded their first round pick to the Patriots to move up in last year’s draft to take Alabama’s Mark Ingram.
The fine is completely justifiable. The loss of two second-round draft picks is equally justifiable. The indefinite suspension Gregg Williams, the ringleader of the bounty program in New Orleans, is not a fair punishment. A fair punishment would have been to ban him from the NFL.
Williams’ bounty programs have been traced back to his time with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, almost a decade ago. Putting a monetary bounty on a player’s head is more than simply a moral infraction, no matter the sport. It is the incentivizing an act of overt violence on another human being.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the fines that players are given week in and week out for incidental helmet-to-helmet contact are getting out of hand. The league is getting soft in some regards, and hard hits are being punished.