The NFL has ruled New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton suspended for one year without pay over bounties paid to team members for his participation in the so-called Bountygate scandal. Saints former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the St. Louis Rams, has been banned from the NFL indefinitely.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is the first football coach in the NFL to ever be suspended for any reason. Payton is accused of participating in cash bounty payouts to Saints defensive players for their performance on the field. The NFL forbids the paying of bonuses based on player performance or handing out bounties for misconduct. In specific, the players were reportedly given cash bounty payments for ‘hard hits’ against opposing team members in an attempt to injure them.
The NFL announced earlier this month that the league had uncovered ‘irrefutable’ proof of a bounty payout program involving over 20 Saints defensive players since 2009. According to documents uncovered by the NFL, players could earn $1000 for “cart-offs” — players injured enough to be carted off the football field — and $1500 for “knockouts”. Payments could double or triple during the playoff season.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was shocked by the one year Sean Payton suspension. “I am speechless,” Brees posted on his Twitter feed. “Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”
The NFL released a 2,000 word press release explaining the suspensions of Payton, bounty organizer Gregg Williams, general manager Micky Loomis (suspended for 8 games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (suspended for 6 games). The New Orleans Saints were also fined $500,000 and had their second-round draft picks taken away for the next two seasons.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodwell called the Bountygate scandal “particularly unusual and egregious” and Payton’s actions “totally unacceptable.”
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities,” said Goodell. “No one is above the game or the rules that govern it.”