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Monday, March 26, 2012

We Concur With This Conclusion From Louisville Courier Journal: "Saints? Hardly!"

Editorial | Saints? Hardly

They were more honest about it in the days of the Old West. Wanted posters were hung in public. Bounty hunters went after their human quarry, knowing the reward attached. The human quarry knew, too.

The modern-day New Orleans Saints had a behind-the-scenes bounty program. They didn’t advertise it. Their quarry — opposing quarterbacks like Aaron Rogers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner — didn’t have the fair warning of public posters, but the bounty hunters who suited up in team uniforms knew who they were to intentionally maim or knock silly and they knew how much they would be paid for it: $1,500 for knockouts, $1,000 for cart-offs, and the reward was double or triple for playoff games.

If this doesn’t horrify fans who have at least read about the higher rates of concussions being reported in the NFL, then there’s something amiss with more than professional football.

But some fans don’t have a problem with this. They say it’s all part of the game — rough stuff for grownups, if you can’t take the hits, stay off the field, yadda-yadda-yadda. They need to ask themselves this: Would they want their kids playing a game this way, or to grow up to play a game that offers bounties?

The NFL has a problem with the Saints’ bounty program, very belatedly, some say — but organized football hit New Orleans hard last week for it: Head Coach Sean Payton, suspended without pay for the next season; former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, indefinitely banned; general manager Mickey Loomis banned for the first eight games next season, assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six. Also the team lost two second-round draft picks and was fined $500,000.

Despite the unprecedented nature of some of the league punishments, all that sounded like pretty weak tea to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., too. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he plans to convene a hearing about bounties in pro sports (football and others) and to examine whether federal law should make such programs and acts a crime. “If this activity were taking place off of a sporting field, away from a court, nobody would have a second thought (about whether it’s wrong),” he told MSNBC.

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell looked beyond the immediate repercussions to the bigger questions about the bounties, the punishments and the sport at the center of it all. Saying pro football was at its crossroads, he wrote, “The NFL has to change. A lot. Can Lions, Bears, Jaguars and Bengals really change their claws, paws, jaws and stripes?”

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