A Bounty-Full Controversy in the NFL

Believe it or not, with every major controversy earning a -gate suffix, the newest hit on the NFL (pun intended) is being called ‘Bountygate’. Many are now looking for more than six degrees of separation from Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, the single most hated man in professional football right now. Why? Because word has it that Williams either introduced or endorsed a ‘bounty’ to any of his defensive players, both in New Orleans and Washington, who could literally injure their opponent. Among the potential victims of this original plot include Brett Favre and Peyton Manning; neither of whom are currently active in the NFL.

But don’t injuries come with the territory of playing football? Legal expert, Matt Mitten, who directs the National Sports Law Institute, takes on that argument.

“As a general rule, those who participate in sports assume the inherent risk of injury therein. You break your arm? Suffer concussion? Broken leg? But what most courts have held is you do not assume the risk of an intentional or recklessly caused injury… I would see something as a bounty, where you’re intending to injure someone so he’s knocked out of the game… there is potential liability to those who suffer injury.”

Oddly, there is precedent for criminal charges to be filed if a court deems the weight of an injury serious enough as a result of intentionally destructive harm given by someone else. But more than likely, serious fines will be levied on the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Redskins, and any other team where this nonsense was encouraged. Even the usually squeaky-clean and well-spoken Sean Payton, head coach in New Orleans, is said to have simply turned his head on the issue, rather than stopping it cold; including the year they went to the Super Bowl and brought home the Lombardi Trophy. As for Gregg Williams, it’s unlikely he’ll be coaching anywhere professionally in 2012.

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