Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Saints are Sinners – time to “pay the price”

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to hand out some of the toughest penalties in NFL history later this month when he announces the penalties and fines he will levy against the New Orleans Saints for violating the NFL’s bounty rule from the 2009-2011 season. While the Saints have taken “some” responsibility for their actions, it’s clear they’re doing so with any real conviction behind their apologies.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton issued a statement through the team on Tuesday, their first public statements since the NFL released the findings of its investigation into a "pay for performance" system instituted by the team and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Loomis and Payton acknowledged the violations disclosed by the league's investigation and jointly took "full responsibility."

"This has brought undue hardship on (owner Tom) Benson, who had nothing to do with this activity," the statement read. “We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility. He has been nothing but supportive and for that we both apologize to him.

“These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly, to all of our fans.”

The statement from Loomis and Payton comes four days after the NFL first released its findings this past Friday. Loomis and Payton refused to address the damage and harm they’ve done to the image of the National Football League and the sport itself.’s Peter King offered a chilling look at how the Saints managed their “Murder Inc.” program. According to King, during the 2009 NFC Championship game played on January 24, 2010, Saints’ Middle Linebacker and Defensive Captain Jonathan Vilma personally offered a $10,000 bounty to any player who knocked Minnesota Quarterback Brett Favre out of the game.

After the game the NFL fined Saints defensive linemen Bobby McCray and Anthony Hargrove a total of $25,000 for three separate improper hits on Favre. During the game, Favre suffered a badly bruised ankle and had to be helped off the field (in what was his last NFL game). According to King: “On the New Orleans sideline, Hargrove excitedly slapped hands with teammates, saying, ‘Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!’"

King reported amid the chaos that ensued at the Saints bench, an on-field microphone caught an unidentified Saints defender shouting, "Pay me my money!"

When Roger Goodell caught wind of the bounty system, he was devastated, a source close to the Commissioner told King.

"God forbid this is true," Goodell said, according to the source. "This will be earth-shattering.”

Saints’ Owner Tom Benson, 84, seems ready to defend the indefensible, the actions of his coach and general manager.

"The bond between Sean and Mickey and Mr. Benson could not be stronger," a team official told The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing. "(Benson) is 110 percent behind his guys.

"The team completely understands the ramifications, is taking the matter very seriously and has cooperated fully with the League," a Saints’ official released to the media. "Mr. Benson is in constant contact with (Commissioner) Roger Goodell and his office, yet he remains steadfast in his support of Mickey and Sean, and his focus is on the upcoming free agency, making the team better and hosting the Super Bowl. ... We have a lot of positive things on our plate that we have to get working on."

The Saints and the city of New Orleans are scheduled to host Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013. As impossible as it may seem today, should Goodell move Super Bowl XLVII to another city as part of his punishment?

The ringleader in the Saints “Murder Inc.” program was the team’s former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. His apology is one of the most hypocritical attempts in sports history.

"It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it," Williams said. "Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again."

How can anyone take Williams’s apology seriously? He stands accused of similar actions throughout his entire 22-year NFL coaching career.

Given the mounting evidence that Williams’ coaching style throughout his 22-year NFL coaching career included a “Murder Inc.” program wherever he coached, there is no reason to believe he won’t create a bounty program with the St. Louis Rams. Williams left the Saints at the end of the 2011 joining the St. Louis Rams as their defensive coordinator. Williams is a serial bounty rule offender; Roger Goodell needs to ban him from the NFL for life.

Goodell should fine the Saints between $1 million and $5 million (a record fine) and donate the money to the development of football safety.

Goodell should relocate Super Bowl XLVII. This will serve as the most important message he will ever send to an NFL owner. In 2010, Goodell announced the NFL player conduct code that holds football players responsible for their actions off the field would extend to anyone working for an NFL team. While moving Super Bowl XLVII would hurt the city of New Orleans, the Big Easy is hosting this year’s Final Four, hosted this year’s BCS title game and the Sugar Bowl. Losing the right to host Super Bowl XLVII will send a message to a sports team that no one will ever forget– you must pay attention to every facet of your organization.

Saints’ General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton need to be suspended from the NFL for one year. Saints’ owner Tom Benson talks about the organization getting ready for the 2012 NFL Draft and the 2012 NFL season when the two men who are running his organization were active participants in what will be regarded as one of the darkest stories in NFL history. How and why Loomis and Payton are still working in the NFL should be questioned – but given they may be first time offenders, a year suspension might suffice.

There are many football insiders who have suggested “bounties” are common place and the Saints are the first ones to have been caught with their “hands in the cookie jar.” That isn’t the point. Their actions are reprehensible. Roger Goodell must send out a message to everyone who plays football – deviant behavior is unacceptable.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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