The Government Needs to Stay out of the NFL and "Bountygate"

Justin Gibson@JustinNColumbiaCorrespondent IIIMarch 22, 2012

Senator Dick Durbin (D. Ill.)
Senator Dick Durbin (D. Ill.)Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The unemployment rate is higher than eight percent. Iran is inching closer and closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, while the Israelis are growing restless and threatening to take action. The economy is barely limping along. And I just paid nearly $100 to fill up the gas tank in my truck.

You wouldn't dare suggest, with all these issues currently facing our country, that the United States government would turn an ounce of its focus to football, would you?


Today, Illinois State Senator Dick Durbin announced he is setting up a Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the NFL's "Bountygate," in which New Orleans Saints players were paid rewards for knocking opposing players out of games. He also wants to look at bounties in the NHL, MLB, NBA and NCAA.

Durbin, the Senate Majority Leader, wants to review whether bounty systems in the NFL could be considered a federal crime. According to Durbin, there is a chance that federal sports bribery laws could include bounties.

Yesterday, the NFL handed down severe punishments to coaches and officials involved in the scandal, ranging from half-season to indefinite suspensions, $500,000 fines and the forfeiture of draft picks.

Seems like the league has it handled, right?

Apparently not, according to Durbin:

Let's be real basic about it here. If this activity were taking place off of a sporting field, away from a court, nobody would have a second thought (about whether it's wrong). `You mean, someone paid you to go out and hurt someone?' It goes way beyond the rules of any sporting contest, at least team contest, to intentionally inflict harm on another person for a financial reward.

The Illinois Democrat wants taxpayers to be "basic" about the matter, yet he fails to understand what basic matters the people he was elected to serve care about.

And as deplorable as the bounty program put into place in New Orleans was, to compare putting a price on another NFL player during a game with your regular Joe Schmo typing on a computer at his desk is ludicrous.

The NFL's rap is that it's a physical, tough and violent sport involving men who spend every day in the gym trying to take each other's heads off. Big hits have been marketed by the NFL and television stations covering it in years past.

Telling your defensive player to hit the quarterback hard can cause an injury just as easy as it can jar the ball loose, causing a turnover. Telling your coworker to go smash the new accountant standing by the water cooler could lead to assault charges.

It's part of the game. It's part of the NFL culture. That's not part of a regular person's workday.

A comparable non-NFL situation would be competing against a coworker for a promotion and getting caught paying someone to spy on their project to get a leg up on them. The matter would be handled from within the company, just as the NFL did.

The government wouldn't get involved. The government wouldn't have the opportunity to grandstand as it's doing now with Durbin.

That is not to say paying a player to get after someone is right. It's not. But there are too many long-standing national problems that affect all of us more greatly than what happens on a football field.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (left) and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams each received one-year and indefinite suspensions respectively for their roles in
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (left) and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams each received one-year and indefinite suspensions respectively for their roles inChris Graythen/Getty Images

I want to know, if I lose my job, that there is a shot to find comparable employment to support my family. I want to know foreign out-of-control leaders will be dealt with, so the world doesn't possibly face a nuclear war. I want to know I won't have to make financial cutbacks to make sure transportation to work is possible. I want to know our government has intentions to finally pass a budget after years of not doing so.

I don't want to know if it thinks bribery laws were violated under a bounty program.

The NFL handled the matter. Move on.


Have an opinion on the matter? Contact Durbin and let him know what you think of the Senate getting involved in "Bountygate."