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A Case Against Bounties in the NFL

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The NFL announced last week that that an investigation by the league had found that the New Orleans Saints had created a bounty system for injuring players. Basically a defensive player received a monetary reward if they injured a player and that player had to leave the game. The system was operated by defensive coordinator Greg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams.

The NFL is opening up another investigation to see if other teams offered a similar bounty system where Greg Williams coached. This weekend, Tony Dungy claimed that Peyton Manning’s initial neck injury occurred while playing the Washington Redskins. Greg Williams was the defensive coordinator at the time. Peyton Manning allegedly said that the defensive player grabbed his neck and wouldn’t let go. It was as if the guy wanted to pull his head off. Below I lay out my case against bounty programs in the NFL.

I. Sportsmanship

Coaches and parents teach their kids about sportsmanship and about respecting their sport and their opponents. I’ve watched a lot of high school hockey this year in my state of Minnesota. Besides the talent on the ice, one thing became clear; high school coaches instill a value of respect for their opponents.

In games where an opposing player was hurt by a hit, players from both teams huddled together in support for the injured player. There wasn’t any gloating or celebrating for hurting another player. The kids respect the game.

I’ve seen the same type of respect at the college level. As you can imagine, the physicality of the game gets more intense as you move up to another level. While there are times that players take a dirty hit (in hockey) or hit the quarterback late (in football), it seems as if the general practice is to respect the game, its rules, and the participants who play the sport.

This same attitude needs to be part of the NFL. If you create a system where players disrespect everything about the game and its rules, you will have complete and total chaos. There might not be any player left in the game.

If we teach our kids at an early age to play the game the right way and to respect their opponents, shouldn’t we demand the same thing from adults who participate in sporting events or professional sports leagues? Of course we should. That message shouldn’t automatically be lost just because the person plays in a professional sport.

II. Safety

As mentioned above, Peyton Manning is believed to have been injured by a bounty system. Brett Favre was injured in the 2010 NFC championship game. We now know there was a bounty on Brett Favre. The NFL has been quite serious about preventing and protecting against player concussions in recent years. It’s not only concussions they’re worried about; it’s about protecting players from injury.

While the NFL is a physically violent sport and injuries are an inherent part of the game, a systemic approach to injuring opponents has no place in the NFL or any sport. The bounty system goes against everything that the NFL is trying to preach. The NFL does want the physical nature of the sport to continue but it doesn’t want players to take dirty hits. It doesn’t want players to try and injure opponents.

That’s why the NFL has instituted rules against helmet to helmet hits, blind side hits, or hitting a defenseless receiver. Penalties can be severe; anything from a player being fined to being suspended. Late hits or hits to a quarterback’s head are met with even stiffer penalties. Protecting players has become extremely important. That’s why the bounty system has no place in the game and goes against everything the NFL stands for.

III. Litigation

Litigation has become a big issue and it’s part of the reason why the NFL has taken an approach towards safety of its players. There’s a class action lawsuit against the NFL that was launched recently by former players. They claim that the NFL knew about the health risks of concussions and didn’t share it with NFL players.

The bounty system, now known as Bountygate, exposes the NFL to further law suits. If Peyton Manning can’t play football again, will he sue the NFL? Such a lawsuit could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that’s just one player.

I think Brett Favre (mentioned above) could also sue the league. Not only was he injured and could argue that his poor performance in the 2010 season was a direct result of the late hits he took, it prevented the Minnesota Vikings from going to the Super Bowl. Can you imagine the punitive damages in that lawsuit?

It’s not good business to condone a bounty program. The NFL stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if they don’t hand out tough penalties to those people who were a part of bountygate. The NFL needs to send a message to bounty program participants in order to protect its image and its pocket book.

IV. Entertainment

NFL fans want their favorite superstars in the game. Without them the NFL will lose those fans and lots of money. I can only speak for myself. I’m disgusted about the revelations of bounty systems carried out by Greg Williams. When I watch an NFL game, I believe in fairness and in true competition.

I don’t want my team trying to injure another player. That’s disgusting, immoral, unethical, and pure evil. If this system isn’t dealt with the right way by the NFL, I will stop watching games. I believe other fans feel the same way.

This bounty system is almost a new era of mafia style sports. If you can’t beat them, you beat them (literally). You injure them and you knock their heads off. That’s what the bounty system represents to me. It is a goon style tactic being perpetrated by thug gangs.

This is not the type of entertainment that I want to watch and I believe it’s not the type of entertainment my fellow fans want to watch either. I don’t think it’s entertaining to watch players being carted off the field after being injured. It’s a horrible site to see.

Now, every time I will see a quarterback taking a late hit or being taken off the field, I will wonder if a bounty system was in place. That’s sure to have an effect on my entertainment value. If other fans are like me, the NFL needs to be worried.

Currently the NFL is the number one professional sport. If thug gangs are allowed to rule, the entertainment value will be sucked out of the NFL and it will also fall in the ratings. NFL fans want to see our favorite superstars play the game. If they are targeted and taken out of the game, the entertainment value is sucked out of the sport. That’s not good for the NFL.

V. Conclusion
The NFL has many reasons to put an end to the bounty system and to hand out harsh penalties against violators. They need to protect their image, the safety of their players, their entertainment value of the game and, most importantly for them, their pocketbook.

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