“I have not heard any talk about taking back the Saints’ Super Bowl trophy. Would that send an appropriate message?”
That was the text of an e-mail Only A Game received this week.
It’s an intriguing thought.
For the past three years, most of the guys playing defense for the New Orleans Saints have been involved in what’s been referred to as “bounty hunting.” With the tacit approval of the head coach and general manager, the players and the guy who was the team’s defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, put money into a pool from which they rewarded players who knocked designated opponents from the game.
Maybe that goes on elsewhere in the NFL, but the point is that there’s no doubt it was going on in New Orleans, and the system, which is expressly prohibited by league rules, was in high gear during the 2009 season, after which the Saints won the Super Bowl.
So why not void that championship?
It’s happened in college sports. Ask John Calipari. In 1996, the UMass men’s team he coached to the Final Four had that distinction snatched because one of Calipari’s player’s, Marcus Camby, should have been ruled ineligible for working with an agent. Then in 2008, Calipari rode the men’s team at Memphis to the Final Four, only to have that achievement erased because one of his players, Derrick Rose, was ineligible on academic grounds.
It can be argued that Marcus Camby’s congress with an agent was a victimless crime. Likewise when Derrick Rose took the SAT and how well he scored on it might be considered a matter between Mr. Rose and the teachers with whom he didn’t study.
Both basketball players broke the rules, but neither of them broke anybody’s knee or head. Neither of them even tried to do that, and as far as we know, neither did John Calipari. What was going on in the Saints’ locker room was something else. Players were rewarded not for scoring touchdowns or recovering fumbles, but for disabling their opponents, at least temporarily. It’s a phenomenon that threatens to render all the NFL’s concern with player safety transparently ridiculous.
The league made public the “bounty hunting” story late on a Friday afternoon. The deliberations regarding sanctions are going on while lots of sports fans are paying attention exclusively to college basketball. Consider this a squawk in favor of not letting this scandal fade away.