As if this Falcons fan needed any extra incentive to hate the New Orleans Saints, we learned last week that over the past three years Saints players and at least one coach were involved in creating and financing a bounty system for injuring opponents’ players. Moreover, Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew about it but did nothing to stop it.
The system paid $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game and $1,000 for when an opponent was carted off the field, with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs. According to one person who has seen the full N.F.L. report, the defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the National Football Conference championship game in January 2010. Favre was injured after taking repeated hard hits, but he was able to finish the game, which the Saints won to advance to the Super Bowl.
There’s a perfectly good theological word to describe this behavior: evil. Shame on the 27 players who were involved (many of whom are likely professing Christians). Shame on coaches and officials who looked the other way.
These bounties only reinforce football’s increasingly bad reputation. Football isn’t a gladiator contest. And, just speaking practically, behavior like this will change the game for the worse. The NFL (and soon college?) has already effectively taken away kickoff returns as a meaningful part of the game for fear of injury or concussion.