In case you haven’t been following the New Orleans Saints bounty program story, here’s a quick summary:
- The team, under the direction of key members of the coaching staff, operated a bounty program that rewarded players for hits that injured opponents. In some cases, specific players were targeted, such as then-Viking QB Brett Favre in the January 2010 NFC Championship game. (It was evident to anyone watching that game that the Saints had decided to play dirty, although we didn’t yet know about the bounties. Clearly, though, there was an intent to injure Favre, either within or outside the rules.)
- Once news of the program came to light, the league conducted a thorough investigation.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, league commissioner Roger Goodell suspended several members of the Benson crime family Saints coaching staff. Head coach Sean Payton has been banned for a full season and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now employed by the St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely (as in, we’ll talk next year…maybe).
- This past week, the league, acting in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, issued suspensions for several of the key players involved. Ring leader Jonathan Vilma, like Payton, was banned for a full year.
Then, this morning:
The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance challenging the authority of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend four players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.
There may or may not be a legal case to be made that the commish overstepped his authority. But at some point, we have to ask a question of the union leadership, which (and this is true for all sports player unions, not just the NFLPA) relentlessly challenges the league over player discipline at every turn.
The question goes like this. Say I’m a player. Specifically, say I’m one of the players targeted by the bounty program. Or maybe I’m one of the guys that a Saints thug collected on as the result of a “cart-off” hit. If you’d like to consider this hypothetical in the context of Dave Duerson or Junior Seau, feel free. The union, which I pay dues to, is aggressively working on behalf of the players who crippled me (or tried to).
So, who’s representing my interests?