Saints 'bountygate' suspensions: Is Roger Goodell fighting football itself?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on four current and former New Orleans Saints for participating in a bounty program to injure opponents. But some say he's going too far.
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell has doled out severe suspensions to four New Orleans Saints players for their roles in a scandal that has already cost Saints head coach Sean Peyton his season, and likely, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his NFL career.Skip to next paragraph
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In handing down the punishments Wednesday, Goodell continued his hard line against bad behavior and his grappling with the complicated question of NFL player safety, something he’s been doing since he took over the commissioner's post in 2006. His latest move, like many before it, raises questions about whether the commissioner can – or should – try to make a violent sport a little less savage.
Defenders Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer), Will Smith, and Scott Fujita (now a Cleveland Brown) will be suspended without pay for their involvement in a scheme in which Saints defenders were financially rewarded for knocking opposing players out of games.
The most severe punishment went to linebacker Vilma, who will sit out the entire 2012-13 season. The NFL’s investigation found that Vilma helped establish the bounty program when he was a captain on the Saints’ defense, helping Williams fund the rewards.
“Multiple independent sources also confirmed that Vilma offered a specific bounty – $10,000 in cash – to any player who knocked Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner out of the 2009 divisional playoff game and later pledged the same amount to anyone who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC championship game the following week,” read the NFL’s statement on the bounty punishments.
Hargrove was suspended eight games, Smith four games, and Fujita three games.
The bounty scandal punishments come at a time when the NFL is at somewhat of a crossroads in terms of player safety. Throughout his tenure, Goodell has been behind several initiatives unpopular with many current players to make the game safer.