NFL bounty payments involved four teams, say media reports
NFL bounty payments were made by the Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and New Orleans Saints, according to news reports. Expect legal action, as well as fines, say analysts.
A scandal in which US football players got rewarded for injuring opponents could have legal consequences, with prosecutors, players and even fans getting in on the judicial action.Skip to next paragraph
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By Sunday morning, four National Football League teams were linked to a "bounty" scandal that came to light in Friday's NFL announcement that New Orleans Saints defensive players were paid for "big hits" that took opponents out of play. "Knockouts" were worth $1,500 and "cart-offs" $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the NFL playoffs.
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, said by the NFL to have orchestrated the Saints scheme, was on the coaching staff at each of the four teams.
The NFL, which is trying to improve its image in the face of lawsuits by former players over concussion injuries, is likely to mete out its own punishment against teams involved in making bounty payments, which could include suspensions, fines and restrictions on player recruitment.
But pieces of the scandal could well end up in the courts, say legal experts.
Criminal charges of assault and battery against the teams, including Williams, are possible, said Ryan Rodenberg, an attorney and a sports management professor at Florida State University.
Rodenberg said that in 2000, Canadian prosecutors brought assault charges against Boston Bruins hockey player Marty McSorley for smashing Vancouver Canucks player Donald Brashear in the head with a hockey stick. As a result of the blow, Brashear struck his head on the ice, lost consciousness and suffered memory lapses. McSorley was sentenced to 18 months probation and banned from playing for that period.
Although the case did not involve bounty payments, it illustrates the willingness of prosecutors to get involved in situations involving intentional hits, Rodenberg said. Criminal charges related to the bounty scandal could arise from the various jurisdictions where injuries occurred.
Federal prosecutors could also bring charges, said Paul Callan, a former New York City prosecutor who is an attorney at New York's Callan, Koster, Brady & Brennan. If bounties were paid for games played outside a team's home state, then interstate telephone calls, computer use and travel could trigger federal charges, he said.
Possible charges could include wire fraud, conspiracy and racketeering, Callan said. Tax evasion charges were another possibility for the money that players earned for making big hits.
"Things could get interesting," Callan said.
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