If you look at Bounty Gate from a legal and ethical perspective, it appears to me that there is more than sufficient justification to ban Sean Payton from professional football.  Yes, ban from professional football!  Yet many seem to feel that a one-year suspension from football may be too harsh a punishment for the New Orlean Saints coach.  That’s because they seem to focus on the “bounty” side of the equation while failing to fully understand and appreciate what Payton’s lying and cover-up does to diminish this great sport!

The issue here is ethics and the legality behind Bounty Gate.  Legally, Sean Payton does not appear to have a leg to stand on.  The Saints staff showed total arrogance to the both the league’s policy and its investigation; as if they weren’t responsible to the National Football League or its policies or to Saint’s owner Tom Benson.  As Dan Daly said in today’s Washington Times: “there is megalomania at work in this sorry spectacle, a we-can-do-anything-we-feel-like mentality that’s deeply troubling.”

I could not agree more!  According to the league, Payton ignored instructions from the Commissioner’s Office and the Saints owner to make sure bounties were not being payed.  He falsely denied the program existed and encouraged support for his denials by telling assistants to make sure “our ducks are in a row.”

Here are some of the released findings available on Wiki:

1. The NFL began investigating the Saints in 2010 in response to allegations of deliberate attempts to injure players during the 2009–10 playoffs.

3. The NFL has long frowned upon bounties, or “non-contract bonuses” as it officially calls them. The league constitution specifically forbids payment of bonuses based on performances against an individual player or team, as well as bonuses for on-field misconduct; the NFL holds that such practices undermine the integrity of the game.

2. Players earned bonuses for deliberately knocking opposing players out of games. These bonuses were paid by coaches and defensive players out of their own pocket… NOT team ownership!

4. After the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, several observers claimed that the Saints were deliberately trying to hurt Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

5. In the 2010 offseason, an anonymous player told NFL officials that the Saints had targeted Favre and Curt Warner as part of a bounty program administered by Greg Williams (Saint’s Defensive Coordinator); the NFL’s security department found the allegations credible enough to open an investigation.

6. Sean Payton was complicit in the scheme and tried to cover it up, and that he and general manager Mickey Loomis failed to shut it down when ordered to do so by team owner Tom Benson.

7. The NFL sent a confidential and detailed memo to all 32 teams detailing its findings. It found that the Saints had not only targeted Warner and Favre during the 2009 playoffs, but had also targeted Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during the 2011 regular season.

This fiasco has been branded “Bounty Gate” after the now infamous Watergate episode in the early 1970’s.  You do not have to be a historian to know that then President Nixon was forced to resign his presidency due to lies and cover-ups.  In essence, he was banned from the Oval Office. This was largely done to protect the presidency.  So, who and what are we trying to protect here?

How about our kids?  That’s a good place to start.  We try to instill in them certain legal and ethical characteristics… standards that will hopefully carry them through life.  Is this a good example for our kids?  What type of example do we set when a respected head football coach lies and covers-up the facts to his governing body?  Furthermore, he was complicit in breaking well established NFL rules, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL owners and players, and the direct orders of the team owner.

What about professional football?  Commissioner Goodell is doing a remarkable job, but I feel he’s missed an opportunity to make a stronger statement about the legal and ethical issues in this case.

brett favre target of bounty gateWhile I cringe at the sight of Brett Favre being carted off the field in the 2009 NFC Championship and recall the expression of his wife, Dianna, with her hand cupped over her face out of fear for his safety; I believe there is a higher moral ground that the NFL should establish in the Bounty Gate case.  Does this mean banning Sean Payton for life from football?  Of course not!  I would never advocate taking away a man’s livelihood.  But, I do advocate the league devote more focus and attention to the legal and ethical component of this case!

Furthermore, Sean Payton, unlike Greg Williams has failed to make a public statement or apology for Bounty Gate.  Maybe he just doesn’t get the message!

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