Bounty-full: Financial Implications of NFL’s Ruling on Gregg Williams’ Bounty Program

When the New England Patriots were found guilty of videotaping opponents’ signals in 2007, the NFL punished the Pats with a then-unprecedented penalty: a $500,000 fine to Bill Belichick, a $250,000 team fine and the forfeiture of the squad’s first round draft pick in 2008.

With news that former Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instituted a bounty program in which he paid players to injure opponents, punishment is imminent for the Saints. The question is how much will the penalty be? Some are calling for Williams to be banned from the league while insisting the team get docked draft picks. Some suggest this crime is worse than the Patriots’ “Spygate” fiasco.

The punishment — whatever it may be — could impact the league for the next decade, or longer. Since Commissioner Roger Goodell took over in 2006, he has pushed for increased player safety. Goodell has had no issue levying fines against reckless hits, drawing the ire of players across the league. The Saints action flies right in the face of Goodell’s initiative, so it would seem this is the ideal opportunity for Goodell to lay a heavy punishment. Many say this could be the NFL’s most-significant ruling.

If the NFL comes down hard on the Saints it stands to reason that everyone — except the Saints and their fans — will be satisfied. However, if Goodell does not dole out the appropriate punishment it could sever the relationship between the league and its players. It took nearly the entire summer for the league to end its lockout after players and owners grappled over money. The players union took exception to the league’s proposal of an 18-game schedule, arguing it only put player safety in greater danger. Should Goodell and the league take it easy on the Saints it would prove the theory that the league cares more about its image than player safety.

Players won’t forget this when the next collective bargaining agreement comes up for renewal, and it’s likely the fans would side with the players on the matter. Perhaps then players would get a bigger slice of the revenue pie. It seems clear the NFL must make the Saints pay now, or it will be paying later.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] Monday was expected to be the day in court for suspended NFL players Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. The four were in New York to appeal their respective suspensions, handed down in early May for the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. […]

    Reply

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