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On the NFL’s Punishment of the Saints

Let me just start off by stating, for the record, that I think the bounty program the Saints were running was wrong.  That it’s dumb they ignored the repeated calls from the league to shut it down.  That, in many ways, they reaped what they had sown today.

That said…ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!

A head coach suspended for an entire year.  His immediate replacement suspended for 6 games.  The general manager suspended for 8 games and fined half a million dollars.  The team fined a half million as well with also losing two 2nd round draft picks — one this year and one next year.  And none of this covers the soon-to-arrive suspensions and fines for the defensive players involved in the scheme.

I understood and expected suspensions, fines and loss of draft picks.  I’m just flabbergasted at their scope.  Suspending Payton for an entire year?  So what, he can’t be involved in next month’s draft?  He can’t visit the Saints facilities or talk to players?  Can he even be involved in the NFL-sanctioned charity and non-profit drives? Can he meet with NFL players and coaches during Super Bowl week, regardless of what happens to the Saints in 2012?  What of GM Mickey Loomis?  He’s suspended for 8 games, so I guess he won’t be suiting up to take on the Falcons or the Bucs.

See, this feels less like the rightful punishment to a team that created a culture of headhunting and more the desperate attempts of a corporate boss trying to avoid the myriad of lawsuits that’s about to fall on their heads.  The NFL has ignored the post-career head trauma issues of retired players for decades and have only begun to deal with it as the fear of major litigation/loss of standing with parents looms in the distance.  The NFL is all about “protecting the shield” AKA ensuring the NFL remains as the #1 league in American sports.  This was a measure aimed at showing folks that they are serious about changing the culture of the sport they oversee first and dishing out punishment second.

Furthermore, this feels as if it’s all about how the Saints lied to the commissioner.  Go back and listen to his interviews on NFL Network or ESPN.  How many times does he say the word “disappointed”?  It’s as if he’s Dad and he’s upset in how Junior lied to him about breaking the neighbor’s window.  Which, given how Roger Goodell has acted ever since stepping into the big chair at NFL Headquarters, is not surprising.

So when you’re worried about image more than you’re worried about doing what’s right, you get verdicts like the one the Saints got today.  For all intents and purposes, the NFL has just derailed the Saints’ 2012 season.  A season that ends, ironically enough, at the Saints’ home stadium of the Superdome. (I wonder what kind of reception Roger Goodell will get next February when he arrives right in the midst of Carnival to hock his NFL shield). This decision says to Saints fans that they should just go on hibernation through April 2013.  Forget the NFL until the next calendar year starts because it’s clear that the NFL is more interested in sending out messages that rampant violence by large men will not be tolerated.

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