The NFL's pay-for-pain scandal — dubbed "Bountygate" — has become even more villainous, thanks to an "extremely disturbing" audio clip that's surfaced implicating Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. (Listen to the NSFW audio below.) Williams was suspended from the league indefinitely for running a bounty pool that awarded players bonuses for brutally tackling members of opposing teams in the hopes of injuring them. Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who gained access to the Saints while filming a documentary, released the expletive-ridden audio clip, in which Williams commands his team to injure members of the San Francisco 49ers prior to a playoff game. "There's no doubt at all" that Williams placed a bounty on quarterback Alex Smith, Pamphilon says. "Go lay that motherfucker out," Williams says. "Kill the head and the body will die." The 12-minute speech, edited down to a three-minute clip, has emerged just as members of the Saints coaching staff, including head coach Sean Payton, are set to appeal their respective suspensions. How bad is this for Williams and the Saints?
It couldn't be worse: Bountygate isn't exactly breaking news, says Eric Bowman at Bleacher Report, but this "sickening" audio illuminates its wretchedness. "This is crossing the line, big time." Pamphilon says that Williams actually rubbed his fingers together — indicating a cash reward — while he encouraged his players to "go lay that motherfucker out." The Saints coaches had a shot of getting their suspensions reduced at today's appeal, but this damning audio kills that. As for Williams: He's toast. He'll never coach in the NFL again.
"Saints Bounty: Stunning audio urging players to injure condemns Gregg Williams"
Singling out the Saints is unfair: There's no excuse for this behavior, says Doug Farrar at Yahoo. But the New Orleans staff is being unfairly held up as "the symbol of all that is wrong with the game of football," when other players, teams, and coaches all over the league were engaging in similar tactics. They're just "doing it with more friendly media-speak, and the F-bombs are scrubbed out."
"Saints not the only ones straddling the line between football and assault"
This could be a good thing: This audio all but dares NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to "transform [Williams'] indefinite league suspension into a career death sentence," says Don Banks at Sports Illustrated. But that would be counterproductive. There's more to be gained by keeping Williams in the game, transforming him into a mouthpiece extolling the NFL's pledge to "make the game safer and rid of its more barbaric practices." As a reformed coach, he could serve as a poster child for how to create a defense that is "both tough and mean" without crossing the line. Should he do that, this Williams debacle "might wind up being the best thing that ever happened to the issue of player safety in the NFL."
"Ban Gregg Williams? Better yet, use him as the face of change"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- The crusade against Iraq War supporters has forgotten someone: Hillary Clinton
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- 8 things the world's most extraordinary survivors can teach you about resilience
- This week I learned the moon might be littered with dinosaur fossils, and more
- Why scientists can't kill HIV
- How to make classic pulled pork
Subscribe to the Week