Saints Bounty Scandal: Roger Goodell Did the Right Thing Suspending Sean Payton

Kirk MangoAnalyst IMarch 24, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 03:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media during a news conference ahead of Superbowl XLVI on February 3, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So how many of you saw the movie Thor last year? Remember that enormous mallet Thor carried around with him devastating anything and anyone he swung at? Well, it appears NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has one of those babies, and it looks like he is not  afraid to use it.

He swung that sucker down with unbridled force on the New Orleans Saints (and, likely, everyone else, former or current, involved in the “bounty” scheme discussed here).

How hard was it? According to ESPN, he:

  • suspended “head coach Sean Payton without pay for next season,”
  • indefinitely banned “former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams,”
  • “fined the Saints $500,000.00,”
  • “took away their second-round draft picks this year and next,”
  • banned Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season,
  • banned assistant [Saints] coach Joe Vitt for the first six games, and
  • is also expected to lay down penalties for Saints players involved in the scheme.

Talk about sending a message―this baby is crystal clear: Do not willfully and/or purposefully, through any form of “pay to injure” (bounty scheme), endanger the safety/health of other NFL players.

You want to hear Goodell’s feelings straight from him? Check out ESPN Video.


If you want to shift a culture that fosters unsportsmanlike behavior, consequences like these may just be the ticket. Many I talked with, along with many reports I read, showed shock over the severity of discipline Goodell doled out. Most did not estimate the penalty would be this harsh.


However, in my opinion, it needed to be, at least if the NFL wanted to make a difference.

In fact, I might suggest that if the commissioner (and the NFL) adopted the full and complete standards that WADA is using for Olympic athletes, with regard to their use of illegal performance-enhancing practices, and coupled that with the same level of consequence we see with this bounty issue, you might actually make a dent in that cultural attitude as well.

From my perspective, there are only two ways to change a “winning at all costs” attitude, and both in combination are best.

The first is with appropriate education and value placement, from beginning to end of an athlete’s career. One where ethics and intrinsic reward are placed as the highest priority, along with trying to win.

And second, especially at the higher levels of sports (where athletes should know better) would be consequences that truly have real bite to them.

By this precedent, poor, unethical, cheating behavior causes one to lose a whole season, and the financial reward that goes with it, or possibly an entire lifetime of seasons (lifetime ban). The culture—not only of bounty systems, but also PEDs and other forms of cheating—will quickly change because no one will want to risk getting slapped with such harsh penalties.