NFL's Perception Vs. Reality In "Bounty Gate"

*Disclaimer - My opinion is not a popular one and does not reflect the views of the rest of the writers at TSFJ*

If you haven’t heard by now, the NFL passed down major disciplinary actions among those involved in “BountyGate”. Saints head coach Sean Payton received a one-year suspension and former-Saints-now-Rams-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely by the league for their roles in paying players for tackles, INTs and critical hits on opposing players (memo to Williams: Go home and be a family man.. it’s over for you).

Let me get this out of the way real quick just so we have an understanding- Bounties are illegal in the NFL and as a result, they’re wrong. I don’t condone them and I’m not making any excuses for those who were involved. But that’s as far as I go. I completely disagree with Payton’s lengthy suspension and other Saints officials, and believe that the NFL has come down extremely hard on him to feed into a perception they want us to believe in. Allow me to explain.

There have been many people that came to me via Twitter saying that this is about player safety values. In comparing Bill Belichick’s “Spygate” to “BountyGate”, many people have said that while Spygate was “just cheating”, BountyGate is about the safety of the players and they could ultimately end their careers. Well, you can get the f*ck on with that logic save that excuse for someone else because I'm not buying it. If you missed the memo, football is a contact sport. A violent one, at that.  There’s no way to get around it. The NFL doesn’t care about player safety anymore than you do. May I remind people this is the same NFL that wants to expand the football season for 2 extra games, even after players have been verbally opposed to this idea, given the violent nature of their jobs. With 2010 being a season to remember in concussions, the NFL still wanted to put your favorite players at risk by adding 2 more games in which they needed to sacrifice their bodies, all to hoist the Lombardi trophy. This is also the same league that until recently sold DVDs called, "The NFL's Greatest Hits". A great hit meant a spotlight on a popular DVD that the league profits from. So that point is moot. They don’t care about player safety, but it’s the perception that the league wants us to have and many of us go with that.

The reality is simple.  This is about power. The Saints were warned to stop with the bounties and they ignored them. When they didn’t, the league wanted them to make sure they’d send a message to them, along with every other team in the league by coming down hard to make an example.

In addition to the confirmation of power, I believe this is also about the money handed over in the bounties. The NFL cannot capitalize off of side bets. Teams have salary cap requirements for a reason. Side bets are off the record. The NFL is a billion-dollar institution so they want record of every single thing teams/players do from a financial standpoint. One could say, maybe this isn’t about money, because the NFL is one of the most successful business in the world and you’d be right. But no running institution likes any employee getting side money they don’t know about. Ever tried to file taxes without that Xmas job W-2? If you did, I promise you, the IRS will make you pay. The NFL’s stance is no different.

Let’s be honest here, the New Orleans Saints probably isn’t even in your Top 10 list of defenses that deserved the most flags for unsportsmanlike hits on players. The issue I have with the severity of the penalty is that, majority of their hits weren’t deemed illegal on the field, meaning there weren’t an abundance of flags being thrown. If there’s record of such, then they need to be penalized to the max. But if their tackles were legal, how much punishment should one really receive? If we want to make this a morality issue than so be it, but the Saints weren’t known to blow anybody up on a consistent basis to turn heads. The reason why this is an issue to begin with is because someone told, not because their amount of penalty flags were out of hand.

My son has mainly played defense since he started playing flag football at 6 years old. From the time my son was 7, he was rewarded for every big tackle, INT or sack he’s done, in one way or another. From Pop Warner, all the way to college football, players have been getting stickers on their helmets for as long asI  can remember. What do you think defensive players get stickers for?? To stand there and look pretty?? Maybe to keep their jerseys nice and clean?? It’s because they made outstanding plays on the field and those stickers were a show of reward and/or appreciation for their accomplishments. That’s the life of the football player. Instead of stickers, the Saints players received cash. Is it right? No and especially not to the degree of wanting to knock a player out and needing medical help to get off the field. But until a player physically does something illegal on the field, I have a hard time swallowing such a pill that Payton received today. Payton is paying for his coach, his players, and every other player/team in the league that’s ever done such a thing.

As much as I love football and the NFL, I’m a firm believer in calling a spade, a spade. And NFL, you’re a big, black spade! This isn’t about integrity, player safety or any of that. This is about grabbing your manhood and showing people that what you say, goes and ignoring you brings in major consequences. THAT’S what this is about.

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