Cameron Conaway thinks the New Orleans Saints’ paying for injuries to opponents raises some deep, unsettling questions.
From this article on CNN: “The New Orleans Saints’ defense had a bounty program that paid players for injuring opponents and for making interceptions and fumble recoveries, the National Football League said Friday.
The program involved as many as 27 defensive players, at least one assistant coach, and was active during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons, said the league.”
Players were allegedly paid for knockouts and for “cart-offs,” when an opposing player had to be carried off the field. A team source tells Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that before the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was offered $10,000 to take out Brett Favre. Brett’s response was, “I’m not pissed. It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys.”
This all leaves us with a host of questions including but not limited to:
(1) What is an appropriate penalty and will it in any way deter other teams from engaging in similar practices? The Patriots had already reaped the benefits of their well-publicized spying scandal and were penalized not only well after the fact and financially, but also with a first-round draft pick in order to “make up” for unfair advantages they may have garnered.
(2) How might this differ from other sports? The Ultimate Fighting Championship, for example, offers fighters a hefty “Knockout of the Night” bonus award to encourage exciting and brutal fights. Though the UFC is a sport, it is fighting and one way to win is through knockout. A game of football does not come to a conclusion after a knockout or when a player is carted off.
(3) When considering what these guys already make the payout money was insubstantial—$1,500 for a knockout and $1,000 for a cart-off—but packed with meaning. It was obviously an honor to win said award. Locker room high-fives all around. How much did this encourage players to enter the often-blurry line of legal vs. illegal play? To forge their energy forward at the last second or to go below the knees at an angle sure to cause injury? Impossible questions to answer, I suppose.
(4) Were any of the players outspoken against the majority? It seems that in football culture they would have been damn-near castrated if so.
(5) What to make of Favre’s response? He doesn’t think any less of the players.