Bounty Hunting in the NFL

Roger Godell at Super Bowl 43 image by Wiki Commons

Hey…wanna make some quick cash?  Wondering what you’d have to do?  How about intentionally injure another NFL player for $1,000.

Pundits have been raging about how some New Orleans Saints pooled money to reward defensive players for delivering hits that knocked opposing players out of the game.  And as with every scandal, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL have threatened to rain down hell on those involved.  Players and coaches will pay.

Why so serious, Roger?  How does a bounty change anything?  The NFL rookie minimum salary is $390,000.  Saints defensive starters make ten times that.   A grand is chump change.  Would that really entice players to hit harder?  Can you imagine Ndamukong Suh hitting the QB just a little softer because there’s no bounty?  Bounties don’t cause injuries to offensive players, good defensive players do.

So why is the sporting world up in arms?  Because, darn it, paying people to hurt others is just wrong.  At least that’s what former NYTimes food critic Frank Bruni thinks.  But wait…he can’t be serious?   It’s wrong to pay NFL players to be violent?  That’s the game, folks.  What else are you paying a linebacker for?   Either the whole NFL’s immoral (no comment) or applying our moral belief just doesn’t make sense.

So, what do you do when your moral intuition doesn’t fit with the facts?  You best take a long look at your intuition.  St. Ignatius had that insight (see rule #4).  Sometimes what seems to be right and good can distract us from what’s more important.  Imagine a devil wearing angel’s clothing leading someone astray.

I see a red-forked tail trailing out of Goodell’s double-breasted suit.  We’re with him–it seems wrong to pay people to hurt other people.  But Goodell’s using that insight to blame the players for a failure in safety that is the NFL’s doing.  (Note how the NFL broke ‘bountygate’  just as scores of retired players are suing the league for failing to act on evidence that concussions cause brain damage.)  We might think that by solving the bounty issue, we’re making the NFL a better place for all.  But a closer look shows us we might be missing the more important point.  There are much deeper issues in the NFL than bounties.

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