National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell has reiterated his desire to maintain the integrity of U.S.’s most popular sport with an unprecedented suspension of Super Bowl winning coach Sean Payton for a bounty program that paid players on the New Orleans Saints for injuring opponents.
The league also banned Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and indefinitely barred former assistant Gregg Williams for the program. Under the bounty plan, generic about two dozen players, ed led by Williams, sales paid each other as much as $1,500 for targeting opponents such as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre from 2009 to 2011, the NFL said. Payton and the Saints won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season.
The action, among the stiffest penalties ever imposed by the league on a team and its leadership and described by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello as unprecedented, came because the Saints’ behavior, which included misleading NFL investigators, threatened the league’s safety and integrity, Goodell said.
“Clearly, we were lied to,” Goodell said in an interview televised on the NFL Network. “I don’t think you can be too hard on people that put at risk our players’ health and safety.”
Goodell said in a league statement he wanted to send “a strong and lasting message” that the Saints’ conduct was unacceptable. The team also was fined $500,000 and stripped of second-round picks in 2012 and 2013. No players were immediately punished. Goodell said “that’s next up.”
New Orleans Saints said in an e-mailed release: “We offer our sincere apology and take full responsibility for these serious violations. It has always been the goal of the New Orleans Saints to create a model franchise and to impact our league in a positive manner. There is no place for bounties in our league, and we reiterate our pledge that this will never happen again.”
by Ismail Uddin