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NFL Bounties
March 5, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Joe Posnanski asks why football fans aren't fazed by the news that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty pool to reward players who knocked opponents out of their games.
If pitchers were offered bounties to throw at Albert Pujols' head and knock him out for a series, that would be a scandal beyond anything in memory. If we found out that Dwyane Wade was actually offered extra money to hurt Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star Game, he and the people offering the bounty might be suspended for life. Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn't that be one of the great disgraces in the sport's history? So what does it say about the NFL -- and what does it say about us as football fans -- that this would happen in pro football and there would be a vague, "Eh, everybody does it, everybody's trying to hurt everybody in football anyway" reaction from so many?
posted by benbenson (146 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
because: football.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:39 AM on March 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yeah. Football. Football is about hurting other people and always has been, whether people care to gloss over that fact or not. I get that Goddell and the crew have to seem to care about player safety, but really, this is football. If you don't like it, I get it.
posted by xmutex at 8:44 AM on March 5, 2012


You would think there's a conspiracy charge in here somewhere.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on March 5, 2012


hello, Charles Martin had a series of players numbers written on his towel in his belt and slammed Jim McMahon to the turf after the play was over. McMahon was never the same and out for the year, ending any chance of a repeat of '85. I'm supposed to be surprised about this?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found this piece on the end of football convincing. As the medical link between concussions and permanent brain injury becomes undeniable, the liability of sponsoring football programs becomes untenable. In the next few years we will see some former high school and college athletes win huge court settlements, and football will disappear from public schools and colleges. Without their publicly-subsidized farm teams, the NFL will fade. The best case scenario for football will be like boxing--continuing on but with a certain social stigma and far less popularity than it once had.
posted by LarryC at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2012 [35 favorites]


Because the very rules of football encourage you to play dangerously.

In baseball, hitting the batter with a thrown ball, even accidentally, is against the rules, and gives him a free base.

In basketball, shoving another player, even accidentally, is a foul, and leads to a turnover, a chance for a safe inbounds pass, or free throws.

In football, grabbing another player and slamming him into the ground with all the force you can muster is not only a legal play, but required. A defensive player who doesn't tackle...well, he wouldn't be playing football. Whether that means nobody should play football is a question that is very likely worth asking.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


Hockey has rules in place which prevent teams from giving bonuses to their enforcers (for example, a $1000 bonus for every fightm or a $10,000 bonus for having the most PIMs at the end of the season)

However, there's a pretty big loophole that has still allowed them to reward fighters: by offering a bonus if they "lead the league in any major stat category." (namely: goals, assists, points, minutes played, shots on goal, and of course penalty minutes) For an enforcer, it's pretty obvious that only one of these stats is remotely within their reach, so it becomes a de facto "reward for having the most penalties," which pretty much means "most fights."

Granted, this is a long way off from intentional injuries being condoned, much less rewarded. If any of these allegations are proven, I have to imagine that lifetime bans would be the minimum acceptable punishment.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:48 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow...he has to ask??? Has he never been to a sports bar?
posted by spicynuts at 8:48 AM on March 5, 2012


Pitchers might not be aiming for the head but many will damn sure hurt batters perceived as crowding the plate. Sheffield and Bonds didn't start with the arm guards for fashion.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


A brilliant reader suggested to me that what Rose did is worse than what Williams and company did because betting on baseball calls into question the legitimacy of the game while the bounty does not.

That pretty much sums it up for me. As long as the betting takes place within the team, it does not question the integrity of the sport. (In other words, as long as a Saints player wasn't paying a player on a different team to hurt Favre in the playoffs, the fans are not going to see a problem with this.)

The "legitimacy of the game" is not to be underestimated. It is also why a lot of your favorite players get a pass for their off-field behavior as long as they are perceived to be a good teammate (Favre) while diva players are more heavily scrutinized (Moss, Owens).
posted by phaedon at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012


In other sports, injury isn't really part of the game so much - baseball and basketball players are conditioned in a completely different way, and those sports are safer to play anyway. I don't think all professional football players are out to intentionally hurt each other, but it's a violent sport and players can easily be pushed to take that one extra cheap shot if given the opportunity. I also think this is a bit of a non-story because football players play for the respect of their teammates and aggressive play is way to earn that respect, not the prospect of an extra thousand bucks.
posted by antonymous at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012


Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn't that be one of the great disgraces in the sport's history?

WTF??? Hello,, entire positions exist in hockey that are meant to do nothing but this. Enforcers do actually get salaries. So yeah I'd say that's a bounty.
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


In football, grabbing another player and slamming him into the ground with all the force you can muster is not only a legal play, but required.

There are all kinds of penalties for illegal hits in football. (clipping, facemasking, unnecessary roughness, late hits, etc.)

Sheesh, even boxing has rules about how you can hit a guy, and for good reason.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:50 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


But one player, Jonathan Vilma, reportedly did bid $10,000 to take out Brett Favre in a playoff game.

Why is this a bad thing? I keed, I keed.

I do care about this. They did the same thing to Kurt Warner in the playoff game immediately preceding this one. Bobby McCray hit Kurt Warner so hard that I nearly fell off my seat when I watched the play live. Warner threw an INT and made a move like he might try to tackle the guy who picked him off, so McCray laid him out.

Also, the idea that "every single team does this" is probably not right. It isn't always a good thing to knock out your opposition. Back in 2001, Mo Lewis hit Drew Bledsoe so hard that he had to go to the hospital and nearly died. However, then Tom Brady came in and the Patriots have had a transcendent quarterback ever since. (Yes, he wasn't amazing immediately, but sometimes knocking out the QB isn't the wisest thing you could do.) Now the Jets have to contend with Tom Brady twice a year.
posted by King Bee at 8:51 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to mention the veritable scent of blood in the water when you have an injured guy attempting to play and even the announcers are talking about how the D is going to go hard after him. This is the name of the game, violence.
posted by xmutex at 8:53 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is, if offering a bounty for game-ending injuries to players on the opposing team is actually supposed to be a bad thing in football, why didn't the NFL take immediate and definitive punitive action against those involved?

The fact that the league still hasn't really announced any fines or other penalties against anyone simply underscores that this is tacitly encouraged.

Can't have it both ways. Either it's against league policy, or it's not. And all signs currently point to it being acceptable to the governing body of the sport.
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, but you're still playing under a mandate to hit. The fact that the rules say to only hit in a certain way...well players will always stretch the rules. Baseball says you can't hit a batter, and see the above post about crowding the plate. Basketball says no fouling, and Hack-A-Shaq is enough of a thing that I don't have to define it here. Football starts far into the "violence is allowed" side of things, and the end result is, predictably, that what limits the rules do place on violent hits are pushed, quibbled over or broken entirely.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2012


I don't think any football player ever wants to see anyone get injured. But the culture of American football celebrates 'toughness', which in some ways is the ultimate football 'skill', and the way you show that toughness is by bringing a big hit. Plus it amps up the crowd. If the other guy's not 'tough enough' to stay in the game, that shows that you're a better player than him.

Even on my high school team, whoever got the biggest hit (which might involve knocking someone out) in the weekly film session would get a whole pizza all to themselves. Everyone else split a pizza.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2012


Bounties I would expect from the Oakland Raiders or the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, but the Saints?!?!?
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Charles Martin had a series of players numbers written on his towel in his belt and slammed Jim McMahon to the turf after the play was over.

Yeah, this. I vividly remember watching this game and seeing the slam. I was never a rabid football guy, but I did enjoy watching games with friends, but this was pretty-much the event that that shut the door for me. I said a quiet "fuck you" to football and never cared again.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:56 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think any football player ever wants to see anyone get injured.

I don't think you know many football players. James Harrison said he loved football because it's the only place where you can legally assault people. Jack Tatum once said his best hits bordered on felonious assaults. Etc etc etc.
posted by xmutex at 8:57 AM on March 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


My favorite example being Albert Haynesworth, who walked over to a prone member of the opposite team and stepped on his head repeatedly. I still don't see how that's not assault.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:58 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah just watch the 60 Minutes interview with Bill Romanowski.
posted by spicynuts at 8:59 AM on March 5, 2012


I will say that as a fan I am relatively fazed by this, to the extent that I hope the league comes down like a ton of bricks on the Saints with fines, lost draft picks, etc. That said, it doesn't bother me to the extent that the author would like simply because I don't think it actually had a huge impact on games. Do you think anyone on the Saints went out and hit anyone any harder because of money? You don't knock the opposing players out of the game to get a bonus, you do it to win; I think these guys would hit just as hard and try to take people out just as much without the bounties.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:59 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think any football player ever wants to see anyone get injured.

I don't think you ever played on the line.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, does "fans not phased by this news" actually just mean that ESPN has stopped covering it extensively? It's the offseason, so casual fans don't even remember who won the Super Bowl last month, and hardcore football fans are focused on the draft at this point. Good timing to have this come out now when no one cares.

Part of the reason for the perceived apathy could be that Goodell doesn't exactly rule the NFL with an iron fist - he's very beholden to the interests of a few owners, not the good of the sport. I'm just expecting a hand-wave in terms of punishment at this point. David Stern he ain't.
posted by antonymous at 9:00 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is getting harder and harder to see parents bringing their kids in for football clearance exams, or worse yet, for 'return-to-play' evals after a concussion, and not really speak to their stupidity over the risk their kids are facing. It isn't as though head injuries only happen in football, but it's the only sport where they occur routinely, and it seems to offer little else in the way of useful long term benefits other than team-play skills. The concussion issue simply hasn't penetrated the consciousness of the population at large who are putting their kids in Pop Warner leagues all over the place.
posted by docpops at 9:01 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't get it.

Why don't they give them swords?

Hang on, I have to go to the gates and check on the barbarians. BRB....
posted by mule98J at 9:01 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like always, I pretty much agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates: It is disengenous for NFL authorities to, on one hand, wring their hands about defensive bounties, and on the other hand celebrate massive hits every chance they get. We can't celebrate football as a contact sport, and then cry fowl when teams reward contact.

When I complain about big, injurious, concussive-causing hits in football, I am told that it's "the nature of the game". Are we really going to fault teams for encouraging their players to play the goddamned game that their bosses and fans are asking for?

I will say that as a fan I am relatively fazed by this, to the extent that I hope the league comes down like a ton of bricks on the Saints with fines, lost draft picks, etc.

Isn't this just asking the league to punish the Saints for being caught, without asking the league to examine their own interest in what comes down to on-field assault?
posted by muddgirl at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


My favorite example being Albert Haynesworth, who walked over to a prone member of the opposite team and stepped on his head repeatedly. I still don't see how that's not assault.

The victim did not press criminal charges against Haynesworth, who was suspended 5 games without pay (about $200k in losses) and waived his right to appeal.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, but you're still playing under a mandate to hit. The fact that the rules say to only hit in a certain way...well players will always stretch the rules.

The rules do make a big contribution to what kinds of hits happen in the sport though, and the rules for what constitutes a legal tackle in American football are pretty loose. Back in the 50s you would have guys like Night Train Lane taking people out with clothes-line tackles to the neck, but those sorts of obviously dangerous tackles along with others like direct helmet-to-helmet hits are illegal now. But there are still a lot of dangerous types of tackles that are legal, like shoulder charging someone who is in the air and isn't able to protect themselves. In rugby by contrast, there are much stricter rules on what constitutes a legal tackle, so most kinds of tackles that aren't the standard wrap around the waist style are enough to get a penalty and lose possession, even though they would be completely legal and normal in American football.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2012


In 2002 Warren Sapp put a guy in a hospital for a week on what Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated called the single dirtiest play he had ever seen covering the National Football League.

Today Warren Sapp is employed by the NFL television network! He has fans. His peers admire him and seek to emulate him. As Favre said the other day "that is football".
posted by bukvich at 9:09 AM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


So what does it say about the NFL -- and what does it say about us as football fans -- that this would happen in pro football and there would be a vague, "Eh, everybody does it, everybody's trying to hurt everybody in football anyway" reaction from so many?

That all the rational "football fans" stopped being "football fans" sometime around the time they turned 21.

In the next few years we will see some former high school and college athletes win huge court settlements, and football will disappear from public schools and colleges.

Dare to dream. And a good riddance it would be, but I can't see it happening. Somehow, some way, legislators will write or change laws to keep college football bowl games around.

There's a decent game in football somewhere (usually it's at the pee-wee level) , and I don't deny the allure of the sport--these are performance artists of the highest caliber--but it is such a dangerous waste in so many ways, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:09 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is more like an office pool. You can't really do any more to hurt a guy than you're already doing. If you don't hit as hard as you possibly can, you'll hear about it from coaches and team mates.

What surprised me about myself this year was how pleased I was to see somebody (anybody?) make a good form tackle. It's a beautiful thing. Way prettier than watching somebody flatten a slot receiver with a forearm smash.

Buddy Ryan on hitting the QB: "It's hard to throw with tears in your eyes."
posted by Trochanter at 9:09 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you ever played on the line.

I did play on the line, both ways, I suppose I was wrong to claim that no football player ever wants to intentionally injure.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:11 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


We can't celebrate football as a contact sport, and then cry fowl when teams reward contact.

The bounties weren't for "great contact." They were for "causing inury."

You do see the huge difference there? If not, let me spell it out. In the first, injury is a known possible second-hand effect. In the second, injury is intentional and willful.

You can't really do any more to hurt a guy than you're already doing. If you don't hit as hard as you possibly can, you'll hear about it from coaches and team mates.

I don't understand this. Do you not recognize "dirty hits"? Wouldn't you be willing to risk a 15-yard penalty to make $10,000? (Eh, maybe not in the case of NFLers...)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:12 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ever since I've been mature enough to think in abstract terms, team sports in general have felt like an analog for war, with football (American/Canadian style) the most obvious short of boxing, wrestling, other specifically martial sports.

I played football for a while as a young teen, but got out of it when a particularly assoholic coach demanded I give up all other athletic stuff as long as I was on his team. Having been playing hockey for much longer, I chose hockey ... and then watched my former football teammates from the stands go through a few seasons in which at least a dozen of them had serious knee, shoulder, ankle injuries (who knows how many concussions there were?). In comparison, the number of serious hockey injuries in the same period barely even registered, not that there weren't a few, including my older brother who busted his wrist.

Long-story-short: whenever I run into a young kid today getting serious about trying out for the high school football team, I endeavor to talk him out of it.

But I did enjoy Friday Night Lights.
posted by philip-random at 9:14 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, there's a big difference between a guy having a bad day and going Hulk Mode on the field, versus a premeditated plan to injure specific players.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:15 AM on March 5, 2012


I care about this. At the top level, there is player health, and along with there, there is a lot more scrutiny of concussions in football and other sports. I think stories like these and concerns about concussions will result in significant rules changes, over and above what's already being done. This, however, is likely a Good Thing.

The bad thing is how this can change the nature of the game and make it less entertaining to watch. Certainly, Indianapolis fans didn't enjoy this past season without Peyton Manning. Now imagine if he had been hurt as a result of an illegal play for which the player earned a bounty.

Charles Martin had a series of players numbers written on his towel in his belt and slammed Jim McMahon to the turf after the play was over.

I remember that, too. It was one thing to say, I'm going to tackle McMahon. Quite another to say, I'm going to hurt McMahon.

Like always, I pretty much agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates: It is disengenous for NFL authorities to, on one hand, wring their hands about defensive bounties, and on the other hand celebrate massive hits every chance they get. We can't celebrate football as a contact sport, and then cry fowl when teams reward contact.

Yes, we can, because incentives like these encourage risk-taking.

Besides, we see highlight reels of stars making big plays. We don't see highlight reels of stars getting hurt.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:15 AM on March 5, 2012


Do you think anyone on the Saints went out and hit anyone any harder because of money? You don't knock the opposing players out of the game to get a bonus, you do it to win; I think these guys would hit just as hard and try to take people out just as much without the bounties.

Bulgaroktonos, I'm unclear on why you think monetary bonuses don't create effective incentives... or why you think you can speak with authority as to the motivation of every single NFL player ever.

I'm of the opinion that money may motivate some of them to do things they might not have, otherwise. Naive, perhaps.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2012


In the next few years we will see some former high school and college athletes win huge court settlements, and football will disappear from public schools and colleges.

Maybe in some areas, but in the south they'd sooner close the school and keep the football team.
posted by delfin at 9:18 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a way I think this is like gallows humour. Any player is one funny step away from being debilitated. So you play games like this, because of your own fear.
posted by Trochanter at 9:18 AM on March 5, 2012


The fact that the league still hasn't really announced any fines or other penalties against anyone simply underscores that this is tacitly encouraged.

Actually what it means is that they are serious about investigating what's going on and making sure they are doing a thorough job of it before they hand out the fines and penalties. People are predicting record fines and suspensions out of this and when you do something like that, you have to make sure your ass is covered. The league has said they should be handing down judgement in about three weeks.

Personally I'm not surprised (for reasons well-covered in this thread), especially after watching the NFC championship game between the Saints and the Vikings. I still find it outrageous and sickening and I'm looking forward to the record fines and suspensions.
posted by Kimberly at 9:18 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pitchers might not be aiming for the head but many will damn sure hurt batters perceived as crowding the plate.

Actually, they're far more happy if they scare the batter off the plate -- hitting them often is counterproductive.

I actually don't have a problem with this -- If you want to crowd the plate, that's fine, but at the very least, you're giving a pitcher little room for error. If you don't want to eat a close inside pitch, don't crowd the plate, and if you're willing to do so, then feel free. However, expect pitchers to make you commit to that with the occasional inside ball.

Finally, a lot of the crowding would stop if the umpires called many of the hit-by-pitched-balls correctly.

The rule is if a batter is hit by a pitch that is A) Outside the strike zone, B) was actively trying to be avoided and C) was not being swung at, then the ruling is hit-by-pitch and the base is awarded. Otherwise, in the case of A), it is a strike, otherwise, the result of the pitch as normal.

Too many times, I see batters crowding and leaning *into* the strike zone. If they get hit by a ball in there, tough. Don't do that. I've also seen some amazing efforts to "dodge" the ball that result in the player being right where the ball happened to go. These players should be awarded a ball, not a base. In general, they do get it right when you're swinging, but that's easy to see.

Note -- this discussion is only about inside pitches against a batter crowding the plate to take away an inside pitch. It has nothing to do with purpose pitches to send a message about player conduct, objections thereof.
posted by eriko at 9:21 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You do see the huge difference there? If not, let me spell it out. In the first, injury is a known possible second-hand effect. In the second, injury is intentional and willful.

Of course I see the difference, but I also recognize that there is a tangible benefit to football teams which can intentionally and willfully cause injury to their opponents, and the league is incapable of making the punishment outweigh the benefits without angering football fans who want to see big hits.

Also, there's a big difference between a guy having a bad day and going Hulk Mode on the field, versus a premeditated plan to injure specific players.

To me, there is a difference but it is such a small one. One feeds the other. Players going into hulk mode is specifically cheered on by fans. I am thinking of the GIF of Patriots TE Gronkowski stiff-arming a defensive player. We want big, nasty hits. I can not fault a company for premeditatively giving me what I want. I can only fault myself for asking for it.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on March 5, 2012


The fact that the league still hasn't really announced any fines or other penalties against anyone simply underscores that this is tacitly encouraged.

Actually what it means is that they are serious about investigating what's going on and making sure they are doing a thorough job of it before they hand out the fines and penalties.


Kimberly, I'd like to believe that, but in order for this to be true, it would have to be the first time in which a thorough investigation was capable of proving such intent.

Examples in this very thread suggest otherwise; they're playing CYA, not "doing a thorough job".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2012


If they had publicized it, the Saints could have most likely increased their viewership numbers.
posted by Ardiril at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, full disclosure: one of my cousins was killed in a HS football game. His neck was snapped in a tackle, after a previous neck injury in the game that he shrugged off. "His fault" for shrugging it off, except of course that he was a minor, unqualified to make such decisions in any legal or moral sense.

Not my favorite game.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:25 AM on March 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


The victim did not press criminal charges against Haynesworth, who was suspended 5 games without pay (about $200k in losses) and waived his right to appeal.

Thank you for pointing this out, I don't want the non-football fans to come in here and think such behavior is not punished by the league. Indeed, suspensions and fines for dirty hits - even ones that didn't draw a penalty - are commonplace.

Like always, I pretty much agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates: It is disengenous for NFL authorities to, on one hand, wring their hands about defensive bounties, and on the other hand celebrate massive hits every chance they get. We can't celebrate football as a contact sport, and then cry fowl when teams reward contact.

Why can't we draw a line? Why does it have to be a zero-sum game? Why can't we celebrate good defense from LEGAL hits that DO NOT CAUSE game-ending injuries without also celebrating the injuries too? I don't buy the argument.

That all the rational "football fans" stopped being "football fans" sometime around the time they turned 21.

This is why I only reluctantly clicked into this discussion, the same way I know what's coming in similar threads. It's not enough that some people aren't football fans, because of the violence or any other reason. They have to insult those of us who are football fans.
posted by mreleganza at 9:27 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


We want big, nasty hits.

To me, a hard, clean, effective hit will always be more satisfying than a cheap shot that injures someone. It doesn't take long to be able to spot the difference. (granted, there are probably plenty of fans who want blood and broken bones, but I'm hoping they are the minority)
posted by ShutterBun at 9:28 AM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am a life-long football fan, and I'm appalled. I fully support lifelong bans for everyone involved.
posted by karmiolz at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Certainly, Indianapolis fans didn't enjoy this past season without Peyton Manning. Now imagine if he had been hurt as a result of an illegal play for which the player earned a bounty.

One of the announcers (slightly more credible than a caller!) on my local station said this morning that Tony Dungy said Peyton's neck was first injured in a 2006 play against Greg Williams' (Washington) bounty hunters on a play where the defensive lineman ripped Manning's helmet off and got a fifteen yard roughing quarterback penalty.

That ought to be pretty easy to check but I don't know how granular the accessible records are.

google returned: Indy and Washington did play on 10/22/2006

Williams was the Washington Defensive Coordinator for that game.

Washington was penalized 10 times for 91 yards in that game.

All Indianapolis' passes were thrown by Manning so he did not miss plays after.

Surely the Indianapolis paper from the 23rd could give some more information.
posted by bukvich at 9:30 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a "Money on the board" tradition in hockey where players offer bounties for various things. I've only ever heard about it in the context of positive things "first guy to score" or "if the team wins" but it's not hard to imagine a situation where it's "$300 to the first guy to hit/fight #10 on the other team".
posted by ghharr at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2012


Peter King's column today has some detail on that Indy/Washington game. Manning called timeout after the hit, told his back-up to get ready, but went back into the game. They didn't pass again on that drive, and stalled out for a field goal.
posted by aaronetc at 9:33 AM on March 5, 2012


To me, a hard, clean, effective hit will always be more satisfying than a cheap shot that injures someone.

Yes, I remember when Johnny Knox went down from an accidental collision. Both teams, and every fan watching, was hoping he was OK. I don't know if he'll play again.

Most football fans don't want players to get badly hurt.

To me, this is simple. Isn't offering someone money to physically injure someone a crime?
posted by eriko at 9:33 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


WTF??? Hello,, entire positions exist in hockey that are meant to do nothing but this. Enforcers do actually get salaries. So yeah I'd say that's a bounty.

Do you follow Hockey? That isn't the enforcers roll at all.

In fact, the enforcers roll in today's game is kind of ambiguous. In the past, the enforcer was there to beat the crap out of opposing players who risked injuring YOUR guy (Semenko beats up anybody who hits Gretzky for example, to PROTECT Gretzky). Nowadays they are mostly there as a morale boost, as far as I can tell. Actual intent to injure in hockey certainly exists (see Bobby Clarke on Valeri Kharlamov in the 1972 Summit Series) but it is absolutely forbidden. Suspensions to stop it are common and relatively severe.
posted by Chuckles at 9:33 AM on March 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


One of the announcers (slightly more credible than a caller!) on my local station said this morning that Tony Dungy said Peyton's neck was first injured in a 2006 play against Greg Williams' (Washington) bounty hunters on a play where the defensive lineman ripped Manning's helmet off and got a fifteen yard roughing quarterback penalty.

Peter King (Sports Illustrated) and Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk) have also reported this.

I'm a little confused because I was under the impression that it's always been kind of an open secret that there have always been (at the very least) player organized rewards/fines for both positive and negative big plays like touchdowns, interceptions, fumbles and drops. There also have been rumors about coaching staff sanctioned "rewards" back to Buddy Ryan's days. I always understood it to be a "see no evil, hear no evil situation" I mean, fuck, if I was aware of it the NFL was aware of it. Now it clearly isn't going to fly in today's climate with the concussion issue. But there seems to be a clear ostrich in the sand issue here if my first reaction upon hearing this news was to think "oh yeah, tons of teams do that."

There's obviously a huge difference between rewarding someone for scoring a touchdown and rewarding someone for injuring another player. That's just disgusting. That line gets a little blurry however when you move over to the defensive side of the ball. How do you reward a game changing hit and not reward knocking someone out of the game? So it's best and easiest to just draw a line in the sand and say no cash rewards at all for big plays (other than the obvious next-time-your-contract-is-up reward). As far as Williams and the Saints go, they're going to have to pay the price here, just like the Patriots paid the price for Spygate. And it should be a much more severe price because we're talking guys health and livelihood being destroyed, and their lives being threatened.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:39 AM on March 5, 2012


If the sport of football was seriously in the business of injury prevention, would they not have come up with a soft helmet technology by now? That is, strong enough to absorb the concussion of hard hits, but soft enough to NOT unnecessarily inflict injury.
posted by philip-random at 9:41 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Watching bits of the Vikes/Saints playoff game, it seemed pretty clear that part of New Orleans strategy was to take Favre out of the game.

For the NFL to really change it'll take multiple young stars to lose their career via injury like Sidney Crosby.
posted by drezdn at 9:44 AM on March 5, 2012


Why can't we draw a line? Why can't we celebrate good defense from LEGAL hits that DO NOT CAUSE game-ending injuries without also celebrating the injuries too?

Because LEGAL hits can cause (intentional or unintentional) game-ending injuries. It is literally not possible to define a set of LEGAL hits that do not cause injuries. Contact sports cause injuries.

To me, a hard, clean, effective hit will always be more satisfying than a cheap shot that injures someone.

Again, Hard, clean, effective hits sometimes (nay, often) cause injuries. This is a false dichotomy. The only difference is intent, and as a football fan I cannot divine intent.
posted by muddgirl at 9:45 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why I only reluctantly clicked into this discussion, the same way I know what's coming in similar threads. It's not enough that some people aren't football fans, because of the violence or any other reason. They have to insult those of us who are football fans.

I understand why people are football fans. I have at times cared deeply about the outcomes of highschool and college games (there's not a local pro team to care about much where I'm from). I know that the athletes involved are incredibly skilled and suffer a great deal for their calling. But I can't escape the sense that the game is basically fucked on a more fundamental level than it is possible to reform and still have football. Football in America is a blood sport, and its role in our culture seems basically pernicious to me, from all the highschool injuries and the insane culture of youth athletics up through the way it influences higher ed and eats pro players alive.

Is that insulting? Probably. Maybe it means I should stay out of the discussion. But I sure don't know how I'm supposed to frame it that would really be unoffensive to a serious football fan, and I'm not entirely thrilled that it's such a minority view.

(It also seems like anyone who thinks football is going away any time in the next half century is not really very in touch with reality. American likes its blood sports a whole lot, and way, way too much tradition, identity, and raw money is bound up in football for this to be anything like a realistic possibility.)
posted by brennen at 9:48 AM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


This week's Monday Morning QB article goes quite in depth on the bounty story. Makes for a decent read.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:50 AM on March 5, 2012


I can't imagine Gregg Williams doing this when he was with the Bills, because the Bills were terrible when he was a coach there.
posted by troika at 9:50 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you follow Hockey? That isn't the enforcers roll at all.

I think you're being a little optimistic...it's getting there but I don't think it's fully there yet. However, the assertion was about 'hockey'...not 'hockey in the last 5 years'.
posted by spicynuts at 9:50 AM on March 5, 2012


Rugby might be a physical game but dangerious play is really not tolerated anymore. This tackle from Saturdays game of the Bulls Vs Cheetahs earned an immediate red card for Francois Hougaard. He had to leave the field and face a disciplinary panel who added a week suspension, and this was a relatively "mild" dangerous tackle, I've seen far worse in the past.
posted by PenDevil at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Football is bread and circuses for modern day America. If it was totally bloodless, there would be no draw. Also, there is minimal athleticism in the game, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of players are obese. It would be more exciting without all of the protective equipment, a la Rugby.
posted by Renoroc at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


there is minimal athleticism in the game, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of players are obese.

Oh dear.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


The only difference is intent, and as a football fan I cannot divine intent.

The existence of a bounty system can go a long way toward divining intent. That's a fairly bright line that I'm comfortable with the NFL drawing.
posted by Etrigan at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, there is minimal athleticism in the game, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of players are obese.

Yeah you just eliminated yourself as a credible participant in this discussion. I'd like to see you try to outrun a lineman in a 40.
posted by spicynuts at 9:54 AM on March 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


What I don't understand is, if offering a bounty for game-ending injuries to players on the opposing team is actually supposed to be a bad thing in football, why didn't the NFL take immediate and definitive punitive action against those involved?

And it's certainly not a new phenomenon. The Bounty Bowl (I and II) was more than 20 years ago. Buddy Ryan objected more to comments about his weight than the accusations that he put up $200 for a hit on the former Eagles kicker, Zendejas. The intent in that case sounds fairly clear.

I'm of the opinion that money may motivate some of them to do things they might not have, otherwise. Naive, perhaps.

Given the current climate for fining defensive players for hits, $10,000 sounds like the right amount to convince a player to try a borderline hit. Unless you're James Harrison.
posted by gladly at 9:54 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unathletic football players against Regular Guy.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:55 AM on March 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


That ought to be pretty easy to check but I don't know how granular the accessible records are.

That's not really the point, though. The point is the outsized influence that a star player has, and how the NFL should take steps to ensure they're not injured.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:01 AM on March 5, 2012


"Joe Posnanski asks why football fans aren't fazed..." - Actually, he wonders why the outcry wasn't louder. I say, Posnanski jumped the gun. The NFL only announced this around noon Pacific on Friday or late afternoon on the east coast. As Posnanski posted this blog piece this morning, he must have written it late yesterday at the latest. Even on the internet, Friday news lags until Monday morning.
posted by Ardiril at 10:01 AM on March 5, 2012


Also, there is minimal athleticism in the game, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of players are obese.

The nearest analog to offensive-line play is sumo wrestling, and nobody dismisses those guys for their body-fat percentage.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:03 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is, strong enough to absorb the concussion of hard hits, but soft enough to NOT unnecessarily inflict injury.

Helmet design is difficult, and entails a few competing elements of performance. It needs to be light enough that it won't weight the players head down, it needs to be shaped in order to allow for neck mobility and vision, the field-of-view needs to be big enough, the material has to both absorb g-forces, and not deform unnecessarily (which would cause point-of-impact injury), etc. Helmets create a sense of safety, which leads to more risky behavior. And it takes surprisingly little g-forces to leave permanat damage to the brain. This is a problem in motorcycle and bicycle helmet design as well.

There was a good discussion in this thread on football helmets.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:05 AM on March 5, 2012


WTF??? Hello,, entire positions exist in hockey that are meant to do nothing but this. Enforcers do actually get salaries. So yeah I'd say that's a bounty.

Enforcers with no other skills exist in hockey, but they seem to mess primarily with other enforcers and not every team has one. Look at the top 20 players in penalty minutes in the NHL and you will actually find a lot of players that score a significant number of goals. Even Corey Perry, Last year's Rocket Richard Trophy winner (most goals scored) is not far out of the top-20. So yes, hockey does have players who are asked to be a physical presence and/or play a defensive game, and they're often put on a checking line or something to shut down another team's scoring lines. But hockey usually does not have almost half a team dedicated to crushing their opponents into the ground. That's just Boston.
posted by Hoopo at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hm. Anyone want to take a guess as to the Saints' potential liability to players injured as a result of this bounty?

Certainly football players generally cannot sue for injuries sustained on the field, but we're talking about intentional torts here. Hell, we're talking about criminal battery. That seems like a massive potential liability for the Saints. And if this goes back to the Redskins? And you shorten the career of Peyton f-ing Manning?

These teams should get sued into oblivion.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:08 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here we go: NFL Bounties could lead to lawsuits. NY Times
posted by leotrotsky at 10:11 AM on March 5, 2012


In the next few years we will see some former high school and college athletes win huge court settlements, and football will disappear from public schools and colleges.

Actually, I'd argue this is pretty unlikely. "Accepting" or "incurring" a known risk is usually a complete defense to any tort allegation. There have actually been cases where judges have refused cases brought by student athletes for injuries suffered on the field under the theory that hey, you know sports are dangerous, so you can't sue someone for suffering an injury within the scope of that risk.

Now it'd be one thing if, say, a light from the stadium fell and hit a player. That's outside the known risks of participating in athletic activities. But being injured by repeated tackles in a contact sport? Sorry, that's looking too much like a known risk.

Further, there are going to be problems with these lawsuits. Statutes of limitations for bodily injury are usually only two years, and even if we permit some tolling of the statute for "discovery," i.e. a previously undiscovered injury, you still only have two years from the date of the discovery to file suit. Also, most high schools are governmental entities, so suing them is a bit harder than suing private parties. It can still be done a lot of times, but the rules can be quite different. Lastly, a lot of schools probably have players sign indemnification agreements. These are frequently not worth the paper they're printed on, but they can be enforceable in certain cases, so at the very least, that's a fight that a potential plaintiff would need to have.

All of this together says to me that plaintiffs lawyers are likely to think pretty carefully before deciding to take on any of these cases. It just doesn't look good.
posted by valkyryn at 10:13 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


NFL Bounties could lead to lawsuits

I also liked this sports/law piece from CNN about potential civil and criminal ramifications of the bounties. It does seem like the league, if it truly wanted to demonstrate its seriousness about this, would just go state's evidence — a few battery and conspiracy to commit battery prosecutions would go a long way as a deterrent against things like this happening again in the future.
posted by RogerB at 10:14 AM on March 5, 2012


Is that insulting? Probably. Maybe it means I should stay out of the discussion. But I sure don't know how I'm supposed to frame it that would really be unoffensive to a serious football fan...

And yet, you managed to do just that, so kudos. You did not insult me or suggest I have the maturity of a 20-year-old, which the poster I quoted did.
posted by mreleganza at 10:14 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The NFL ought to make some examples out of people here, starting with Sean Payton and Gregg Williams. If this report from CBS is correct, Payton conspired with a convicted felon to raise money for the bounty fund. I think as much as Payton is beloved in the NFL (and in my extended family), he ought to be banned for life from professional football for this, along with Williams.
Funds for the Saints bounty system, the memo states, weren't solely contributed by players. People close to the Saints team contributed as well. One was a felon: Michael Ornstein.

Ornstein was once Reggie Bush's marketing agent and is close friends with Saints coach Sean Payton. Ornstein spent time in prison for fraud and the Saints -- somewhat -- have cut ties with Ornstein.

But in 2009 Ornstein was a fixture around the Saints site. The NFL memo to teams state that then Ornstein pledged $10,000 towards the quarterback bounty in 2009.

Then, on at least two occasions in 2011, Ornstein again contributed to a bounty fund on an opposing quarterback.

The NFL memo also states there was a bounty paper trail. Ornstein put details of the bounty system in an e-mail to Payton, according to the NFL memo. In that e-mail, Ornstein committed $5,000 towards yet another bounty.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"hey, you know sports are dangerous, so you can't sue someone for suffering an injury within the scope of that risk."

Isn't that victim blaming?
posted by Ardiril at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2012


valkyryn: any observations on potential liability for NFL players, teams, or the league?
posted by leotrotsky at 10:31 AM on March 5, 2012


If you box with gloves loaded with plaster (or another hardening agent), you can be banned for life (unless your name is Antonio Margarito).
posted by BobbyVan at 10:33 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


All this is going to do is drive the bounties and similar incentive-to-crush-opponents rewards under the table.

The growing focus on concussions and their aftereffects is a good thing, but will only go so far because the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy takes place after death. For every player who suffers a serious concussion and is sidelined, thousands more will absorb smaller hit after smaller hit and show no visible symptoms while racking up cumulative damage. The NFL and its ilk are reluctant to draw links between on-field hits and brain damage (and why wouldn't they be? The legal implications will be staggering); they can point to rules against helmet-to-helmet collisions and unnecessary roughness and say "look, we're Doing Something About It" and whitewash away the damage being done at a slower pace.

The standard strategy for going up against a top quarterback will remain, as always, to hit him as hard and as often as possible. Wide receivers will continue to be leveled going across the middle. Big sacks of meat will smash into big sacks of meat on the line play after play. And if I had a son, rather than let him be on a kick return or return coverage team, I'd give him a handgun and tell him to go play out in the yard.
posted by delfin at 10:34 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that victim blaming?

It's an extension of the principle that you can't sign a contract by which the other party is explicitly allowed to punch you in the face, and then sue them for punching you in the face.

The catch is that all bets are off when the risks turn out to be far above what you knew when you signed on the dotted line.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:36 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not long ago i watched the Football High episode of Frontline, and this sounds just like it. Schools that worship football players, encourage being the ones who injure the other team, etc. I played football in high school many years ago, hated it, but it's become nothing like i knew growing up. Just funny to me that people are surprised when players cause trouble off the field like they are encouraged to act on the field.
posted by usagizero at 10:37 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Next thing you know people will start claiming Nascar isn't about the crashes.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:43 AM on March 5, 2012


Isn't that victim blaming?

God, people on this site are so obsessed with "victim-blaming."

No, it's not really victim blaming. If you're willingly participating in an inherently dangerous activity like contact sports where there's a reasonable expectation of injury, sustaining an injury is a risk you take. While that doesn't make a hit-list or intent to injure in any way OK, in many cases with football it would be hard to demonstrate that the person who caused the injury acted in such a way as to intentionally cause harm beyond what was necessary or reasonable as opposed to simply playing his part in a normal football play. It's not always easy to make a distinction given the nature of the game, and establishing the intent to injure is the plaintiff's job.
posted by Hoopo at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2012


The existence of a bounty system can go a long way toward divining intent. That's a fairly bright line that I'm comfortable with the NFL drawing.

How do I know, as a fan watching the game, whether or not there is a secret bounty system in place? I can't and I don't.

Of course, now that NFL fans know that bounty systems are in place, and since NFL fans only support clean hits, and since there's no way to know whether a hit is clean or not, they are going to abandon the NFL in droves, right?
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 AM on March 5, 2012


Of course, now that NFL fans know that bounty systems are in place, and since NFL fans only support clean hits, and since there's no way to know whether a hit is clean or not, they are going to abandon the NFL in droves, right?

I know that, in some cases, baseball games have been fixed by gamblers. As a fan, I only want to support non-fixed games, and yet somehow I manage to watch baseball. Weird.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:52 AM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


they are going to abandon the NFL in droves, right?

The possibility of just such a thing is what makes this such an important issue for the league. Sports are highly susceptible to negative publicity hurting their bottom line.

People love seeing home runs hit, but Barry Bonds is practically a pariah these days.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


People love seeing home runs hit

"Do you want to know the truth about steroids in baseball or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"

"DINGERS! DINGERS!"
posted by Hoopo at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know that, in some cases, baseball games have been fixed by gamblers. As a fan, I only want to support non-fixed games, and yet somehow I manage to watch baseball. Weird.

If I learned that MLB coaches had been regularly fixing games for the past 20 years without being detected or reprimanded, yes I would seriously reconsider future support for MLB baseball. In fact, facing a steroid scandal, the MLB did more than reprimand one team or one coach (which appears like the likely outcome of this investigation) to protect their image.
posted by muddgirl at 11:04 AM on March 5, 2012


The existence of the Marlins' new dinger machine is sufficient proof that while performance enhancing drugs are technically banned, SOME kinds of drugs are still present in baseball.
posted by delfin at 11:06 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Drugs that insert /a tags automatically are still rare, though.)
posted by delfin at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure Ozzie Guillen is legally classified as a drug.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rugby might be a physical game but dangerious play is really not tolerated anymore.

Agreed, and this is something that has largely happened in the past few years. Sam Warburton was sent off in the World Cup semifinal for a "tip tackle" (which is where you lift the opponent, turn them to or beyond the horizontal, and drop them), under the new standard that if you take a player off the ground it's your responsibility to get him down again safely. Even six or seven years ago you'd see players do spear tackles (like a tip tackle except they drive the opponent downwards) and get away with penalties or yellow cards. So this kind of thing can change. Whether the cultural difference with football is too great to do the same, I don't know, but it has to be worth a try.
posted by ZsigE at 11:25 AM on March 5, 2012


I had Matt Forte on my fantasy football team this year, and as I watched the play where he suffered a season-ending injury, I swear to G-d it looked like the defensive player was specifically aiming for his knee.

Not diving at his legs to make him jump and lose speed and the ability to change direction. No attempt to close and wrap up although he had plenty of room to do so. Right for the knee. It was sick to watch, and long before this bounty story broke, it occurred to me that some -- though by no means all and probably not even most or many -- defensive players are playing to injure the other guy, not just to stop them from advancing the ball.

The ESPN.com poll on this issue the day it broke had the overwhelming majority of fans supporting fines, bans, and loss of draft picks as the punishment, so I think the article's author is wrong when he asks where the fan outrage is.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:32 AM on March 5, 2012


The ESPN.com poll on this issue the day it broke had the overwhelming majority of fans supporting fines, bans, and loss of draft picks as the punishment

I'm pretty sure if you put up a poll asking what the punishment should be for "running up the score" ESPN polls would show the overwhelming majority of fans supporting fines, bans and loss of draft picks. It's not exactly the crème de la crème over there. Have you ever read the comment board? Shit is like YouTube comments.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:35 AM on March 5, 2012


video of the tackle on Manning

video of Sapp's hit on Chilton (and Sapp talking about it like it's normal.)

Both look like typical NFL action to me. Jack Tatum's hit on Daryl Stingley also looked like a pretty typical NFL play except that Stingley never walked again.
posted by bukvich at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2012


nathancaswell, I can only use myself as the ultimate model of reasonableness -- which I actually am; also, supremely modest -- but from what I've seen on the polls, people normally take fairly sane positions, although of course they tend to be homers: the state of Louisiana overwhelmingly voted for the mildest penalty.

And I'll take ESPN's comment section over Yahoo News' or Youtube's comments any day of the week.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:46 AM on March 5, 2012


I'm so glad somebody is asking this question. A scandal really.

Hey, here's an idea, we should look into the rumor that some boxers are doing this too!

Snark, snark.
posted by noaccident at 11:51 AM on March 5, 2012


leotrotsky: Here we go: NFL Bounties could lead to lawsuits.
RogerB: I also liked this sports/law piece from CNN about potential civil and criminal ramifications of the bounties. It does seem like the league, if it truly wanted to demonstrate its seriousness about this, would just go state's evidence — a few battery and conspiracy to commit battery prosecutions would go a long way as a deterrent against things like this happening again in the future.
I'm actually pleased to see that, because that really will cut this down, as much as anything the NFL will do. It's a perverse notion in American sports, that the game can exist in some sort of extra-legal area, or that the league has some ability to prevent regular court cases or criminal investigation with a hand-wavy "We'll take care of this internally". Granted, that's not unheard of with other institutions such as schools, but that is not to say that a person can't always file civil and criminal charges.

Intentionally aiming to hurt someone, and paying another person to do it, are unequivocally against the law. Getting caught planning that, even within a culture of football, means you are exposed to jail time and civil penalties. Unfortunately, I suspect the injured parties (based on Favre's comments in the Monday Morning QB article mentioned here) won't actually press charges, as it will be seen as a punk move.

But if one did... especially if there's anyone who lost significant playing time or had their career ended... they could reasonably be expected to bankrupt another player by seizing all or most of their career earnings to supplant the ones they lost through willful, planned injury. And that offending player would reasonably risk going to jail as well.

So long as it's petty $1000/$1500 bonuses among the players and coaches, all of whom make orders of magnitude more in annual salary, bonuses, and endorsements, it'd be like you or I have a $20 bet about pranking a co-worker. But hit them in their salary with exceptionally long suspensions or outright removal from the game, and hit them with jail time and multi-million dollar civil settlements... and not even the dumbest, craziest player would ever take $1000 to risk all that. For the claim that this would just drive it "underground"- well, it already was underground. And yeah, that's not to say that player A wouldn't ever say to player B something like "If you smear Favre, it's my treat in the VIP room of the strip club tonight". But it'd be risky to ever say that to the locker room at large, much less make part of the culture.
posted by hincandenza at 12:11 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


valkyryn: any observations on potential liability for NFL players, teams, or the league?

Similar to my analysis of amateur ball, with the added wrinkle that pro players almost certainly have a pretty iron clad contract which prevents them from suing anybody for their injuries. You sign up to play pro ball, you get paid a bunch, and you basically deal with the physical fallout. That's how that's gonna work.
posted by valkyryn at 12:18 PM on March 5, 2012


ShutterBun: The possibility of just such a thing [losing the fans in droves] is what makes this such an important issue for the league. Sports are highly susceptible to negative publicity hurting their bottom line.

People love seeing home runs hit, but Barry Bonds is practically a pariah these days
Well, that's because sportswriters are mostly racist. Bonds' "crime", which died in court after millions of dollars wasted by taxpayers to push a race-based case, was possibly/probably doing something no worse than most players, yet not being very nice to sportswriters. People like "Ratzo" Rick Reilly worked to put lily-white players like Jeff Kent- who was apparently a clubhouse cancer- up on a pedestal while ripping on Bonds as a horrible person. Stories like that, more than anything, cast the die against Bonds, because he became the easily hateable (black) face of the Steroid Era, the single name fans point to to hate on with the only reason being... sportswriters decided they hated him. The only other alleged or proven PED user who got close to the same loathing was Roger Clemens, but then that guy is kind of a dick anyway for a number of other reasons.

Rafael Palmeiro, he of the finger wag, deserves much more scorn but I guess for some inexplicable reason he didn't get it like Bonds did Heck, as much as I loved watching him play during the Mariners' epic but ultimately sad 2001 season, players like Bret Boone were almost certainly doing the same thing or more than Bonds. PED use was rampant, and it doesn't bother me as a fan any more than I worry about integration "ruining" the game in the 1940's, or the rise of international scouting the last 20 years, in terms of the effect on the "purity" of the sport.

Sorry for the derail, but the Bonds' thing always chaps my hide. I don't like the guy personally- I don't know him- and he might be a dick. But outside of maybe Pujols, Bonds was probably the greatest offensive player in the history of the game, and a nanny, hand-wringing press corps and the anemic Bud Selig robbed fans of seeing the Ted Williams of his generation play out the last few years of his career. And when A-Rod first passes Bonds on the HR list, what will the sportswriters say then? "Oh, we thought he was clean and were eager to see a clean player pass the tainted Bonds, but... uh... "

To re-rail this comment, I guess, PED use at most hurts the player (and may cause no harm at all, especially if it wasn't as underground as heroin use) along with some vague notion of "what about the kids!?". But the NFL story here is about a blatantly criminal activity among the players, and one that in addition to its direct criminal and civil liabilities, does threaten the integrity of the game if some teams are actively trying to permanently maim other players. However, I suspect the average fan would consider PED to be a worse "crime" than conspiracy to commit battery.
posted by hincandenza at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I found this piece on the end of football convincing. As the medical link between concussions and permanent brain injury becomes undeniable, the liability of sponsoring football programs becomes untenable. In the next few years we will see some former high school and college athletes win huge court settlements, and football will disappear from public schools and colleges. Without their publicly-subsidized farm teams, the NFL will fade. The best case scenario for football will be like boxing--continuing on but with a certain social stigma and far less popularity than it once had.

Its a voluntary activity. They all sign waivers. You'd have to prove negligence.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:38 PM on March 5, 2012


It is an open secret that Tom Benson fired Randy Mueller and Jim Haslett for poor character more than for poor performance. It would not surprise me one bit if Benson fires the GM and the coach. I bet Benson is mad enough to kill somebody right now.
posted by bukvich at 12:53 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


hit them with jail time and multi-million dollar civil settlements... and not even the dumbest, craziest player would ever take $1000 to risk all that.

There's a very serious problem with criminal prosecution here, and it was mentioned above but deserves highlighting: it's generally really difficult to differentiate what's a hard, clean hit that injures someone versus a reckless hit deserving a penalty that injures someone unintentionally versus a deliberate hit with intent to injure. There are some extreme cases--like the McMahon body slam, or McSorley in hockey--but in general even coaches who reward injuring someone are not going to want to do it in such a brazen fashion that they pick up a definite 15-yard penalty at best, and possibly ejection or suspension of one of their own players.

I mean, take the Sapp hit mentioned above above. Clifton got hurt, but did Sapp actually mean to injure someone, or was he just caught up in the play and made a silly mistake? It's not at all clear to me. Even adding the "bounties" for injuring someone (and I certainly agree that the league should ban them and punish the coaches involved) doesn't remove doubt. Hard but clean hits injure people in football all the time, so how are you going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person had intent to injure someone and wasn't just playing hard football? Even an illegal hit doesn't prove that (the league has rightly cracked down on helmet-to-helmet hits, but we're talking about split-second decisions where 21 gigantic and incredibly fast people are running around like crazy, and so mistakes inevitably still happen).
posted by dsfan at 1:14 PM on March 5, 2012


You know, back in the day of Joe Gibbs II, I thought the Redskins were in pretty good hands. When Joe retired all the fans assumed that Greg Williams was going to become the coach and Gibbs would go on as team president. So when Gibbs suddenly quit to spend more time with family I was miffed when Greg Williams was sent packing and we got Jim Zorn instead.

So yeah, Zorn was in over his head and managed to drive the team right into the ground, a place from which they've yet to recover. But with Williams as a coach the 'Skins would have an even bigger mess right now.

Anyhow for what it's worth, the sports columnists at the Post have written some scathing columns on the Redskins for having anything to do with Greg Williams, and are suggesting the league should yank their draft picks this year. If that happens, we Redskins fans can hang it up for the next 5-10 years.
posted by smoothvirus at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2012


So long as it's petty $1000/$1500 bonuses among the players and coaches, all of whom make orders of magnitude more in annual salary, bonuses, and endorsements

I can't remember where I read this, but one former player said that special teams players could easily double their weekly paycheck with a huge hit.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2012


Rafael Palmeiro, he of the finger wag, deserves much more scorn but I guess for some inexplicable reason he didn't get it like Bonds did

Um, because he didn't become the MLB leader in home runs? I'm not saying there wasn't any race-related hate of Bonds, obviously there was; but for a lot of people it was simply that he ended up with a lot of records.
posted by inigo2 at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2012


Back on topic, per SI, the Titans, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills may also be in trouble:
Former Redskins safety Matt Bowen said Williams had a similar bounty scheme when he was in Washington. Former Bills safety Coy Wire told The Buffalo News that an environment of "malicious intent" was in place when he joined the team in 2002 - when Williams was the head coach. Wire said Williams promoted "financial compensation" for hits that injured opponents.
posted by inigo2 at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2012


Titans, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills

Because it clearly made them defensive powerhouses.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2012


Rafael Palmeiro, he of the finger wag, deserves much more scorn but I guess for some inexplicable reason he didn't get it like Bonds did

Um, because he didn't become the MLB leader in home runs?


It's difficult to express how different Bonds and Palmeiro were. It wasn't just the home runs.

Barry Bonds lifetime OPS: 1.051
Rafael Palmeiro lifetime OPS: .885

That right there is the difference between a superstar and a member of the pantheon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't care what's in your contract, you can't consent to an intentional tort.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But you do have to prove that an intentional tort took place in a sport where at the best of times incredibly large people are meant to hit you at high speeds and injuries are almost certain. Only in the most egregious cases would that be a simple thing to establish, even with details like a bounty pool being made known.
posted by Hoopo at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2012


The hit on Manning was not in the open field. It was right outside the pocket with a couple of Colts blocking and three separate Redskins closing in. Manning was hit almost simultaneously from behind and from in front and the guy who knocked off his helmet was not obviously aiming for his head. The tackler behind him smacked Manning's head down into the guy rushing from the front. If one or both of those guys earned a bounty on that play it would have been by pure luck.
posted by bukvich at 4:57 PM on March 5, 2012



If the NFL wants to see change about this, it would go along way to start guaranteeing contracts. Once players & their salaries are seen by owners (and by extension, coaches) as investments that need to be managed and protected against undue risk, as opposed to expenses that can be cut as soon as they start to decline in performance, you'll see a lot more concern about a work place environment that rewards the deliberate attempt to harm others and downplay one own's injuries.

Unfortunately, I don't think the NFL will ever guarantee player contracts until a player strike cripples the league's finances, and the chances of that happening are slim to none.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:51 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


One thing that struck me was how small the payments were. They're a tiny fraction of league minimum, and they mostly look like tokens.

The bigger compensation for these guys is the recognition of their coach and teammates, something athletes crave from the moment they step onto the field as kids. And, well, you really can't get rid of that.

The whole issue of "bounties" is a distraction that means Roger Goodell and co. don't have to meaningfully address player safety in the actual rules of the game for another season; he'll promise to aggressively police bounties and the fans will be mollified.
posted by downing street memo at 6:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the fact that people defend this action as just part of the game and the fact that I don’t like football are related.
posted by bongo_x at 6:01 PM on March 5, 2012


Titans, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills

Because it clearly made them defensive powerhouses.


According to Football Outsiders

The 2000 Titans were the best defense in the league.
Between 2001 - 2003 the Bills went from the 26th best defense in the league to the 7th best.
2004 Redskins were the 4th best defense in the league.
2005 Redskins were the 4th best defense in the league.
2007 Redskins were the 7th best defense in the league.

I don't know what happened to the 2006 Redskins and the 2008 Jags (who I remember having a pretty good defense, but apparently not).

Anyway, he's a good defensive coordinator, I think that's pretty established.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:27 PM on March 5, 2012


And I'm too lazy to look up traditional stats for each year but I saw this sticking out on Wikipedia trying to make sure I had the dates right...

As the Defensive Coordinator, the Titans led the league in total defense and only gave up 191 points, the third fewest in the NFL since the league adopted the 16-game schedule in 1978.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:29 PM on March 5, 2012


google search for (titans & dirty) pulls 12 300 000 results.
posted by bukvich at 7:12 PM on March 5, 2012


If we found out that Dwyane Wade was actually offered extra money to hurt Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star Game, he and the people offering the bounty might be suspended for life.

You mean like they did with every team that ever paid Bruce Bowen?

The difference is that other sports are subtler than football rather than different in kind.
posted by srboisvert at 1:26 AM on March 6, 2012


I can't remember where I read this, but one former player said that special teams players could easily double their weekly paycheck with a huge hit.

Not sure how much of an audience is left here, but: this is a really salient point. When you run a bounty system like this, you're perpetuating class warfare, even among absurdly-highly-paid-athletes. Defensive stars earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, and aren't generally motivated to intentionally try to make dirty hits against opposing players, because it can potentially get them suspended, and an unpaid suspension is really expensive. Special teams guys making league minimum (which, OK, is still a pretty decent paycheck, but none of it is guaranteed; they can be cut on a moment's notice, and have to go back to civilian work until someone else decides to give them a two-week flyer) are the ones for whom a $1500 check can make a difference. This creates a system where guys who have nothing to lose and know they aren't going to be around for long anyway try to inflict injury on opposing superstars, making them essentially (poorly paid) hired guns. On top of how ugly a bounty system is on its face, this makes the guy running the operation look like even more of a dirtbag.
posted by Mayor West at 5:50 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


google search for (titans & dirty) pulls 12 300 000 results.

12,299,999 of which are about Albert Haynesworth. The other is Cortland Finnegan.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:50 AM on March 6, 2012


"Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn't that be one of the great disgraces in the sport's history?"

Yes it would, but only if the player in question is not a dirty Soviet Russian.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:30 AM on March 6, 2012


One thing that struck me was how small the payments were. They're a tiny fraction of league minimum, and they mostly look like tokens.

The bigger compensation for these guys is the recognition of their coach and teammates, something athletes crave from the moment they step onto the field as kids. And, well, you really can't get rid of that.

The whole issue of "bounties" is a distraction that means Roger Goodell and co. don't have to meaningfully address player safety in the actual rules of the game for another season; he'll promise to aggressively police bounties and the fans will be mollified.


Yeah, it's almost like a PR gift in some way, to distract the fact that, like you said, it's very easy to take money out of the game. I'm sure there are other perks and secret rewards on various teams for taking out key players on the other team. And I do think they rationalize it by saying it's just for one game or whatever.

And I certainly think there are lots of clean players who would never participate in anything so morally repugnant, but they are likely silent objectors.

"Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn't that be one of the great disgraces in the sport's history?"

Ha. Yes, "one." Everyone knows Maurice Richard as "The Rocket," but remember the Richard Riot?

Heck, Mike Milbury went into the stands and beat a fan with his own shoe!

The list of disgraceful NHL incidents is long.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:56 AM on March 6, 2012


NFL suspends Payton for one year for bounty scheme
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:19 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hammer got dropped. In addition to suspending Payton, one of the best coaches in the league, for a full season Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely and the Saints organization was stripped a second-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013.

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Goodell added. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game. . . .

“Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety. Programs of this kind have no place in our game and we are determined that bounties will no longer be a part of the NFL.”

posted by nathancaswell at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2012


Oh and Payton loses $8 million in salary. That's a lot of bounties.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2012


Damn. A year. Wow.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on March 21, 2012


What does suspension of a coach mean? Is he banned from all activities or what? Games obviously and practices I guess, but where is the line for level of involvement? And how do you suspend a general manager?
posted by Big_B at 10:59 AM on March 21, 2012


What does suspension of a coach mean? Is he banned from all activities or what? Games obviously and practices I guess, but where is the line for level of involvement? And how do you suspend a general manager?

When players are suspended they can't even use team facilities, like the weight room etc. I imagine it will be the same for Payton.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2012


The Saints were also fined $500,000.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2012


This is far from over. Vilma and other players are facing penalties as well. My guess is Benson fires Loomis and Payton. This is the biggest NFL debacle since Hornung and Karras were suspended for gambling back in the early '60's. The guys playing in the league now have never seen anything like this.

I am sad for my friends who are Saints fans. :(
posted by bukvich at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2012


Warren Sapp is reporting Jeremy Shockey is the snitch.
posted by bukvich at 1:53 PM on March 21, 2012


That's way harsh for Payton. Williams, sure.

If the Saints do fire Sean Payton, he will be THE hot prospect next year. He's way up there among the best play callers in the league.

I think it has a lot to do with the denials that were made during the previous investigation.
posted by Trochanter at 6:36 PM on March 21, 2012


Warren Sapp is reporting Jeremy Shockey is the snitch.

I don't have the link to Shockey's twitter handy, but he denies it.
posted by inigo2 at 6:44 PM on March 21, 2012


Warren Sapper is a douche who should shut his fucking trap.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2012


Sapp says he has an unimpeachable source. I thought in Journalism 101 they taught you that incriminating claims require two independent good sources before you run with it.

Sapp and Shockey are both Hurricanes and this is a serious brotherly code violation by one or the other which might be interesting to follow going forward. It would be an interesting comparison whether Sapp or Shockey is the more unpopular. Hurricanes seem one of the most tightly knit clans in the league from my reading of the papers; I don't know any of them personally.
posted by bukvich at 9:29 PM on March 21, 2012


bukvich: "Sapp says he has an unimpeachable source."

Sapp should come out with it so we can congratulate and thank the whistleblower. When a team is paying its team members to purposely seriously injure fellow union members, this sort of "snitching" should be supported to the highest degree. And that the league and players union aren't immediately expelling anyone who profited from this bounty is a demonstration that player safety only matters when it doesn't impact profitability.
posted by Plutor at 9:01 AM on March 22, 2012


Also the Saint in the deepest shit (according to Peter King) is Hurricane Jonathan Vilma. Think Sapp's "unimpeachable source" might be from the U?
posted by bukvich at 3:34 PM on March 22, 2012


Thing is, how would a player (let's say it's Shockey) know about Payton's directive that his coaches "have their ducks in a row" going into their League interviews? I don't see him having access.

More like Williams flipped.
posted by Trochanter at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2012


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