When you look at it, most scandals in sports have to do with gambling or cheating in some way or another. While this is not good obviously, it doesn’t really hurt anybody, usually just the integrity of the game. Well, that is not the case with the Bountygate scandal. This was the scandal when it was revealed that the New Orleans Saints defense was involved in a bounty program from 2009 (the year they won the Super Bowl) to 2011. This program involved players being paid out bonuses (or “bounties”) or intentionally injuring opposing players. This article will tell you all you need to know about the scandal itself, the punishments and more.
The NFL has long frowned upon the ideas of bounties (or “non-contract” related payouts), but they do happen. However, usually they are informal, small in size and between players. Rarely do the coaching staff and team know about the practices. The first break of this Bountygate story actually came from the 2009 NFC Championship game where several Vikings players said that Saints players were trying to intentionally injury QB Brett Favre.
The official investigation, however, didn’t begin until the 2010 season when an anonymous player told various NFL officials that the Saints were indeed targeting Brett Favre and other QBs as a part of a bounty program that was created and administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The investigation stalled for quite a while but eventually, on March 2nd 2012, the NFL had released information that they did indeed find evidence of this bounty program.
According to the NFL, Williams had created the program soon after he had arrived in New Orleans in 2009, and that between 22 and 27 players were involved in the program. The way it worked is that Williams and the players would pool their money together in order to pay out performance bonuses for players who injured opposing players. It was also said that Sean Payton (the head coach) tried to cover up the scandal and GM Mickey Loomis failed to shut it down when told by the owner of the team.
The prices were often high in the four digits and even got into the five digits for players to knock out opposing superstars, a practice which is obviously horrific and not very sportsmanlike at all. As a result of this awful scandal, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down some of the most severe penalties ever seen in the history of the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely and Sean Payton would be suspended for the entire 2012 season, which was the first time in modern NFL history where a head coach has been suspended. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of that 2012 season and Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of the same season. The Saints were fined $500,000, and forced to give up two of their second-round draft selections. Also, four current and former Saints players were suspended after being named as ringleaders in the scandal, with linebacker Jonathan Vilma also being suspended for the entire 2012 season, which is the longest suspension for an on-field incident in modern NFL history.
After these harsh penalties were handed down, the Saints defense went on to have one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history, giving up more yards than any other team in history. This awful performance and huge penalties were handed down, teams should think twice before ever implementing a similar program.