So emails and texts were pouring in over the weekend on one story – the NFL bounty story, if you have not heard, this is the story that trumps all stories. We find out that the New Orleans Saints, Greg Williams and Sean Peyton knew about it; there was a bounty out there that the coaches had set up, primarily defensive coordinator Greg Williams while with the Saints – he apparently had done it at other previous stops. So basically the coaches had a little game inside the game, they were paying NFL players a thousand bucks or so to knock their opponents out. Now, we’re all terribly uncomfortable with it but let’s start with the first part of the story – and this is the bigger part of the story.
What do we always say about the NFL? That it’s the #1 sport! A couple of weeks ago Troy Aikman said – and I’ll be releasing a rant this week on it, he said that the NFL basically won’t be #1 forever. So what could possibly bring down the NFL? There are only 2 things, I believe, that can bring down companies such as ESPN, Nike, Coca-Cola and the NFL – these gigantic brands, 1) Government 2) Lawsuits. Do not kid yourself, this is a legal powder kick, it is a litigation landmine. Let’s try not to see it from the coaches and players standpoint, let’s first see it from the leagues standpoint.
They see it potentially as a nightmare – which Roger Goodell would have to sit in front of a jury or a judge, like a cigarette executive, like a tobacco executive and have no alibi. Expect him to come down hard – and I believe it is the right thing to do. The NFL does not want to end up in court and have prosecuting attorney’s squaring them off and saying “you had bounties, you were trying to hurt players….you permitted it!” The NFL would lose billions of dollars; they would also, just like MLB has for the last 20 years, start to lose their perch in the marketplace. When you’re as big as the NFL, two things can bring you down – one of them is lawsuits. Is paying a linebacker 1/83rd of his salary for a little extra sauce on the hit a huge story? No, but it’s the perception of the story, potentially to a judge or to a jury that is the theme of this rant.
Listen, the NFL profits from violence, they romantize about it, remember when they use to sell tapes of the biggest hits? They promoted it! But it’s players and coaches who have set up an employee to an employee business, a game within a game and there is a sinister feel to it that could leave the NFL massively exposed in the courtroom. The word “Bounty” would scare jury’s it would be feasted on by the media and the NFL would be in an ugly place. Matt Bowen use to play in the NFL, there was an article he wrote this weekend and I’ll quote it “prices were set on Saturday nights in the team hotel, that’s right – we got paid for big hits, clean hits by the rulebook” now you say to yourself “ Andrew, but they were clean hits!” Law is interpretation my friends. He also says in the article “a couple of bucks here for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees” sirens go off!
How do you interpret that? I could easily – as a prosecuting attorney, interpret that as “you’re trying to end a man’s livelihood” so a business, big picture, has to protect that business above the employees. I don’t like to say that because I’m just a runt like the rest of you, I’m an employee. So the first part of this story is about you not being able to legally promote a system that’s trying to hurt people, even if it exists. You have to stop it to protect your assets which are the owners, the capital, your advertisers, your TV contracts. For the record, concussion lawsuits – there’s 35 current lawsuits with 700 players involved that have been filed against the NFL. That is why Roger Goodell will probably fire Greg Williams, seriously suspend Sean Peyton of the Saints and take some draft picks away from the Saints. “But Andrew, it was happening elsewhere” it didn’t get unveiled elsewhere.
Damian Woody says that this happens all the time but you can’t allow it to get out or the league becomes vulnerable. Interviewed on the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN radio this morning he said “This is not an isolated incident by the New Orleans Saints. This is the type of stuff that happens in different organizations, especially in the playoffs where teams are fighting to get to the Superbowl. Now, I’m not saying that its right but if guys have the oppourtunity to take a key player out in order to help their team, these types of things happen” Absolutely! I agree with him.
Now the second part to this story –first is the legal protection of the league and its assets, I just talked about that; but the second part of this story is that I really don’t think this is that big of a deal. I got a great text this morning – a buddy asked me “So Andrew, what’s the difference between an NFL Bounty and an Ohio State Buckeye sticker?” the truth is, not much! One is monetary and the other isn’t and money changes everything. If a male teacher gave your 9 year old daughter a smiley sticker, you’re okay with it. But what if he gives her a $20 dollar bill? All of a sudden, you’re not okay with it, even if the smiley sticker is worth $20 dollars…you’re not okay with it. You can run an NCAA bracket at work, a card game at lunch…throw money into it, changes everything! Money changing hands changes this story.
Jimmy Boeheim’s biggest booster can shake the hand of his star player, if he hands him keys to a BMW – Jimmy Boeheim and Syracuse are in some serious NCAA trouble. Sticker on a helmet is public, it’s playful and fun! A thousand bucks for a big hit is harsh and almost criminal. In some police departments, you’ll get an award for the most DUI’s as a cop – usually a nice plaque. Pay them $50 bucks a DUI…somebody is getting fired! It’s why I’m going to say today, let’s not overreact to this, there is a very fine line in what we’re comfortable with and what we’re not, money is often the fine line. Think about it this way, if Mike Tyson – and he was, is paid $20 million dollars to fight, we are okay with it. But if he is paid $20 million to fight and get’s an extra $500,000 that we find out about later to knock the guy unconscious for at least 8 seconds…there are lawsuits all over boxing! Even though that was Mike Tyson’s intent from the opening bell! In hockey, game starts with a fight –we’ve seen that, they played each other last week, a guy knocks another guy out with a cheap shot and the next time the two teams meet, say the Rangers and Flyers, they drop the puck and fight! We are okay with it, we cheer it on, it’s talked about on radio – well it’s hockey, maybe not…but you get my point.
The truth is, if we knew that they had $500,000 on it to knock the other guy out –even if that’s their intention once the fight starts and the puck is dropped, you’d have lawsuits, it’d be sinister and the league would look skivvy. So my two stances today are that firstly, the league has to come down hard to save its butt, just like any corporation, to keep it out of harm’s way legally. My second interpretation is, this kind of stuff is going around everywhere! Employee to employee business but money makes it look much more criminal!