The New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate" scandal has been an ugly moment for the National Football League. But no matter how unfair some people think the punishment was, commissioner Roger Goodell should stick to it.
The discovery of monetary incentives given to those who tried to knock players out of games was met with harsh reactions and an even harsher penalty for the Saints.
Head coach Sean Payton is gone for a year. His assistant and possible replacement Joe Vitt has been suspended for six games, and general manager Mickey Loomis will miss eight games.
The franchise was docked $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks, and Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator and supposed ringleader of the circus, has been suspended indefinitely and may never coach again.
Of all the punishments handed down by Goodell, Payton's yearlong suspension was the punishment that garnered the most headlines.
Here was the man who had brought New Orleans back from the football wastelands, banished for an entire year for his role in one of the worst scandals in the history of the sport. Now, Payton is debating whether he will appeal the ban.
If Payton appeals, under no circumstances should Goodell budge. While some claim that the suspension was harsh for the penalties committed, it should be understood just why Payton was banned.
The idea of paying money to deliberately knock players out of a game is a terrible act as it is. Football is a violent sport that does not need any extra layers of viciousness. Trying to intentionally injure players is a condemnable act, and punishment should have been handed down.
However, that is only part of the reason why Payton and the Saints got hit as much as they did.
The real reason that the suspension was as severe as it was can be traced back to the fact that Payton and the Saints knowingly lied to the NFL about the bounties.
The league had initial inklings of the bounties in 2010 and called Saints owner Tom Benson about the findings. When Benson told Payton and Vitt to immediately abolish the program, nothing was done, and the bounty system continued.
Payton reportedly made sure his staff was prepared to cover up any traces of the bounty scandal when NFL security began its investigation.
Now, all of these indiscretions have come to light, and the Saints paid dearly for it. The saying "the cover-up is worse than the crime" exists for a reason. Instead of coming clean and being honest with the NFL, Payton and his staff chose to lie.
It's that lie that put the suspensions and penalties over the top. Had the Saints been honest with the NFL from the start, there is no way that the punishments would have been as harsh as they were.
Don't be mistaken — the crimes the Saints committed on the field were completely detrimental to the game. There were going to be some harsh punishments no matter what the circumstances were surrounding the investigations.
Goodell was going to send a message to the rest of the league that these bounty pools were going to stop. The punishment was going to be strong, and it would be felt league-wide.
But the Saints chose to lie, and the commissioner had no choice but to amplify what was sure to be an already hefty punishment. And those punishments should hold through any possible appeals in the future.
Hopefully, a lesson will be taken from this mess of a scandal. As the Patriots learned back in 2007 and the Saints surely know now, if you are to break the rules, the sooner you come clean, the better.
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