Why Roger Goodell and NFLPA Must Put Bountygate Behind Them
Enough is enough.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association need to end their contentious battle over the league's handling of the "Bountygate" scandal. A black eye that was already big enough for both sides is spreading every day this scandal continues staying in the headlines.
And considering the evidence put forth by the NFL over the last handful of days, the idea of a manufactured scandal by the league has been put to bed. There isn't much left for the NFLPA, or the players themselves, to fight.
There was clearly a bounty system in place in New Orleans, and there was clearly players and coaches who participated. Denying either point seems looney now.
Here's a quick review of some of the most important evidence presented by the NFL, via Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
- Greg Williams' testimony, which states direct knowledge of the program and the players participating.
- Handwritten notes that the Saints' defense pledged $35,000 in bounty money for knocking Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game. $5,000 reportedly came from assistant head coach (and current interim coach) Joe Vitt.
- Eyewitness sources claiming that Jonathan Vilma contributed $10,000 to the Favre-knockout pot.
- Recorded quote from NFL films from Anthony Hargrove to Bobby McCray to "Give me my money!" after the Saints knocked Favre out of the game temporarily.
- Powerpoint slides from the Saints' computers portraying "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and a message to "collect bounty $$$!"
- A majority of evidence coming directly from the Saints' computer database.
- A ledger from 2009 stating Roman Harper was due $1,000 for a "cart-off."
Given all the information presented, both the Saints' management and players will have a hard time debating their case. Yet, for the most part, the players continue to deny the existence of not only their involvement in the bounties, but of the bounty program altogether.
The story is borderline crazy to that front.
And keep this major factor in mind: the NFL does not have to prove—by any means—that the players were uniquely involved. The simple existence of the program—which is clearly laid out—is enough for the NFL to justify their punishments.
To that end, both the NFL and NFLPA need to come to end the dispute over this case.
The New Orleans Saints are one of the feel-good stories of the last 10 years in the NFL, and it's worth pointing out that this year's Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans. This dark, ominous cloud hanging over both the league and the Saints' franchise simply isn't good for either party.
Jeff Pash, the NFL's general legal counsel, had exactly that to say in King's story.
Does anyone think this is how we wanted to spend the offseason? Taking one of the great stories of the NFL, the New Orleans Saints, where we're playing the Super Bowl this year, and having it dominate the headlines?'
The question is absolutely valid.
According to King, the NFL will keep the possibilities of appeals from the players open for another week. That's a good decision for the NFL, who needs to shut the door on this entire ordeal sooner rather than later.
More than likely, it is going take a while for the Bountygate story to fade away. People still bring up "Spygate" every time the New England Patriots do something even a little bit controversial.
The same might be said for the Saints in this situation.
But for the NFL, and the NFLPA—including Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, etc.—this story needs to start going away right now. Extending a case that isn't likely to change either way does nothing but harm moving forward.
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