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The NFL's 'pay for pain' scandal: The fallout
On four NFL teams, defensive players were reportedly paid cash bonuses for deliberately injuring their opponents. How harsh should the punishment be?
 
Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allegedly orchestrated a bounty scheme that paid players $1,000 for injuring an opponent so badly that he had to be carted off the field.
Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams allegedly orchestrated a bounty scheme that paid players $1,000 for injuring an opponent so badly that he had to be carted off the field.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Paying football players extra to deliberately injure their opponents? It may sound too grisly to be believed, but the NFL is investigating the New Orleans Saints and three other professional teams for just such alleged "bounty" schemes. At the center of the controversy is former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with the St. Louis Rams), who reportedly instituted these "pay for pain" plans at other teams that employed him, including the Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, and Tennessee Titans. Defensive players were reportedly offered bonuses of $1,000 if they injured a player so badly that he had to be carted off the field, with bounties in the playoffs paying two to three times as much. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to hand out severe punishments, particularly in light of public concerns over concussions and player safety. What should the NFL do?

The NFL must crack down hard: A "severe punishment is in order," says Jerome Solomon at the Houston Chronicle. The NFL "sets the tone for football at all levels," and its practices trickle down to high school and even pee wee leagues. "Yes, football is a violent game. Yes, injuries often occur." But would you let your son take the field in a high school game if there were a $100 bounty on his head? Of course not. The NFL must set an example.
"Would you let your son play in a bounty game?"

No punishment is warranted: Professional football is a form of "legalized violence," says Michael Bradly at Philly Mag, and by watching games, fans "are satisfying a primal urge to see carnage at a safe distance and without guilt." If Williams was paying "for the most brutal charges of their work, we shouldn't conjure synthetic outrage." Face the facts: "The roiling waters of violence" will never "stop coursing through the NFL." And most fans don't want the violence to stop.
"You’re not really outraged by the Saints' bounty program"

Let's wait until we have all the facts: Remember, says Michael Lombardi at NFL.com: These bounty schemes, deplorable though they may be, only violate league rules if the money was paid by the team or a team associate. If the pool comprised players' private money only, the rules weren't technically broken. Outsiders are calling for a "swift decision." But "establishing the total truth is much more important" than rushing to judgment. Before heads roll, the league needs to suss out exactly what happened.
"'Bounty' sanctions must be severe to protect NFL's image"

 

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