In the last few weeks it was reported that the New Orleans Saints had been running a “bounty system” over the last few seasons under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. More recently, the NFL, led by Commissioner Roger Goodell, handed down what many thought was a strict punishment. Saints Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire year, GM Loomis will sit out the first eight games and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely. On top of that the team was fined $500,000 and it’s second round draft picks for this year’s draft and next year’s have been taken away.
However, the punishment to the team mainly is losing it’s head coach for an entire season. Recent news though has said that former two-time Super Bowl champion Bill Parcells is a likely candidate to come on board for the upcoming season. This defeats the whole purpose of the punishment if the organization is allowed to hire a future Hall of Fame coach to replace its suspended head coach for his team’s “pay to hurt” scheme. Some might argue that it is the coach that needs to be punished and not the team, but that argument works better at the collegiate level. The vast majority of the players involved in the scandal will be the same players on the team in the upcoming season, so they need to be punished as well. The effect of the punishment will be vastly reduced if the Saints are allowed to bring in another head coach, not to mention a future Hall of Fame head coach.
Also, it is worth mentioning that the players involved in the scandal may be facing punishment too and not just from the NFL. Former NFL quarterback and BYU Law grad Steve Young stated that the team has opened itself up to being sued. Many may believe that violence is a part of the game and the law generally agrees; however, the team and individual players open themselves up to lawsuits when they commit acts beyond the assumption of risk involved in the game. A case that proves this point was Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals and Charles Clark, which stated that once player conduct gets to the grounds of recklessness, a plaintiff does have a claim. 601 F.2d 516 (10th Cir. 1979). There is a very strong argument to be made that some of the hits Saints players delivered were reckless, especially looking at tape of the hits on quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in playoff games the last two years. Saints fans should be worried that not only have they lost their head coach for the year, but possibly players as well and the players and team should be very concerned about future lawsuits.