In a shocking exposure it has been revealed that the New Orleans Saints players maintained a bounty pool up to $50,000 over the last three seasons for inflicting game-ending injuries on players of opponent teams. Both Brett Favre and Kurt Warner were on the hit list, as reported by the NFL on Friday. The NFL investigation found “cart-offs” were worth $1000, “knockouts” were worth $1,500 and the payments could triple in case of playoffs. The NFL reported that the highest rewards were handed out for physically injuring opponent team players during 2009, the year Saints won the Super Bowl.
In NFL lingo, “cart-offs” are used to refer to players being carried off the field and “knockouts” when due to debilitating injury the player cannot return to the game.
The illegal program was maintained by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the knowledge of Coach Sean Payton. At least, 22 to 27 defense players were involved in playing hitmen.
The NFL said that a large number of independent sources have confirmed the evidence, and preliminary punishments could include suspension, fines and loss of draft picks.
However, other legal penalties, both civil and criminal can occur as injured players decide to file claims, and as any contractual arrangement created with the intention of physically harming citizens is a criminal offense with sufficient mens rea. It no more remains a game.
The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, “The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players … The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.”
It was found that Saints’ players contributed heavily to building the cash pool, and that at times money was pledged against specifically targeted players.
The NFL Commissioner further said, “It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated … We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.”
The NFL found Tom Benson, the owner of Saints to be unaware of the program, and it was run behind his back.