Dear NFLPA: why do you only represent the interests of the thugs?

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?

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9 replies »

  1. Actually, I support the union on this one. What were the players supposed to do? This isn’t like hockey where the contracts are guaranteed. If the coach says “go out there and cripple that guy”, they have two choices. Do what the coach tells them or get cut from the team and be labeled problem players.

    I do think they should be suspended for not alerting the league to what was going on (though, really is what happened in New Orleans likely that out of the ordinary?), but to suspend one of the players a full year seems excessive.

    The coaching staff was most culpable here and they should bear the brunt of the suspensions. I don’t think it would have been right to give any of the players more than a four game suspension.

    • I’m sensitive to the pickle that a program like this puts some players in. But it has to be noted that Goodell didn’t whack everybody. In fact, one of the big surprises is that he only went after three or four guys, even though it appears that maybe 25-30 were involved. Which means he didn’t penalize the guys in the pickle, he penalized the ring leaders, and to all reports it seems that Vilma was damned near as guilty as Williams.

      Beyond that, there’s a part of me that doesn’t care. If you feel obligated to cripple a guy because of peer pressure or because the coach told you to, then we now have a Nazi problem. It is NOT OKAY to intentionally attempt to injure an opponent. Period.

    • And by “Nazi problem” I’m referring to the famous Milgram research on the role of authority in getting people to do unconscionable things (the electroshock study that a lot of us encountered in intro Psych…)

  2. Besides, if you listen to how the Pittsburgh players talk, they make it sound as though that’s the defense’s job. To hear them tell it, the only thing the New Orleans players did wrong was to accept extra money for something they should have been trying to do in the first place.

    Furthermore, do you think Sean Payton will be coaching again in 10-15 years? Sure he will. Do you think Jonathan Vilma will still be playing in 10-15 years? 5 years? His football career is a lot shorter than a coach’s career. These are his money-making days and the league just took away one of his last years to make big money.

    • These are his money-making days and the league just took away one of his last years to make big money.

      Yes. As a perfectly justifiable response to his attempt to end other players’ careers.

      If you want to argue that the coaches should have been punished more harshly, I’m good with that.

  3. Yeah, I get the Nazi problem and that’s exactly why I think players should have been suspended; to send a message that quiet compliance is not okay. But if you’re going to suspend defenders just because they go out and try to injure players, then a fair number of Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Baltimore players should be getting the year off too. There’s a cultural problem in the league and it’s not Jonathan Vilma’s fault.

    • Well, that raises another issue. Somewhere along the line football players have convinced themselves that crippling an opponent is the object of the game. No, moron, TACKLING the opponent is the object. A hard hit may be the means, and it may be a very effective means, but a shoestring takedown on the 36 yard line counts just the same as homicide on the 36 yard line.

      I’m glad Goodell has been cracking down on teams like the Steelers and I hope he continues to be Harrison’s worst nightmare. Otherwise the NFL becomes the Christians vs. the Lions, with all that implies.

  4. If Roger had removed the super Bowl Trophy from the saints; this would not be an issue.

    Anyone who watched that NFC Championship game (without bias) clearly saw how the bounty hits on Favre affected his play and thus the outcome of the game; to determine who went on to the Super Bowl.

    For those that still question the impact of those hits; you need only ask yourself: Why did the NFL network pull the scheduled reply of this game just after the story of the investigation broke a few months back ?

    The evidence was overwhelming that the Saints (with a little help from the Refs) got away with a trip to the Super Bowl that was clearly undeserved at least; orchestrated at worst.